Venters continues to earn widespread respect
As I was exiting the clubhouse after last night’s game, a couple veteran players told me I needed to write a story every day about Jonny Venters. In some ways they were goofing around. But after watching Venters exhaust every last bit of energy while completing two scoreless innings last night, they were also kind serious.
Over the past few days, we’ve heard Matt Diaz and Reds manager Dusty Baker praise Venters. Diaz said his former teammate is the game’s best left-handed reliever and Baker compared him to 1977 American League Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle.
Given that Venters is getting a necessary and much-deserved chance to rest tonight, this seems to be a good time to look at the ridiculous numbers he has posted since joining the Majors last year.
To compensate for Venters’ absence and the fact that Scott Linebrink and Eric O’Flaherty also might not be available, the Braves have promoted Cory Gearrin from Triple-A Gwinnett. Wilkin Ramirez will likely be sent down to make room for the right-handed reliever.
Venters admitted he had nothing left as he struck out Chris Heisey to end Saturday night’s ninth inning and his fourth two-inning appearance in span of 11 days. The Braves have gone 3-1 in those games.
While establishing himself as one of the game’s top relievers, Venters has lived up to the “Everyday Jonny” nickname he earned while making 79 appearances last year. Braves fans have come to expect to hear chopping chants and see Venters on the mound whenever they come to Turner Field. <p>
These fans have Venters manage to prove even better than he was during last year’s stellar rookie season. He ranks second among Major League reliever with a .125 opponent’s batting average and sixth with a .216 opponent’s on-base percentage. His 0.55 ERA ranks second to the .042 mark Pirates right-hander Daniel McCutchen has posted in 18 appearances and 21 1/3 innings.
Venters has made 108 appearances and completed 115 2/3 innings since making his Major League debut last year. Reds reliever Nick Masset leads the Majors during this span with 109 appearances, which have consisted of 105 innings.
Peter Moylan ranks second among Braves pitchers with the 92 appearances he has made since the start of the 2010 season and Eric O’Flaherty ranks third with 84. With Moylan likely out until some time in August and O’Flaherty’s back occasionally proving bothersome, Venters could end up combining for at least 30 more appearances than any other Braves pitchers during the 2010 and ’11 seasons.
Venters’ 115 2/3 innings also ranks as the game’s second-highest total among Major League relievers since the start of last year. Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard lead the Majors with the 118 2/3 innings he has completed in 100 appearances.
Still while leading all Major League relievers with a 5.05 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio and 83.5 percent groundball percentage during this span, Venters has proven to be efficient while on the mound. The 1,771 pitches during these past two seasons rank fourth among Major League releivers, trailing Clippard (2010), Rockies right-hander Matt Belisle (1,843) and Cubs closer Carlos Marmol 1,808.
Venters leads all Major League relievers with 32 2/3 innings this year and his 29 appearances match Reds right-hander Logan Ondrusek for the game’s most this year.
Still while making two fewer appearances and completing 6 2/3 fewer innings, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has thrown 22 more pitches than Venters this year.
When Venters arrived for his first big league Spring Training last year, he was an injury-plagued left-handed pitcher who had finally produced some reason for encouragement the previous year. About 15 months later, the only four Braves to throw more pitches are starting pitchers Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens.
You probably could have won a lot of money at the start of the 2010 season if you had you predicted Venters would enter June of 2011 having thrown 300 pitches more than Kenshin Kawakami during this two-season span.