Looking back on another ugly night
With his team having blown four-run leads in two of the past three games, Fredi Gonzalez has taken a lot of heat over the past couple of days. When he was dropping clothes off at the dry cleaner on Monday, a fan yelled toward him and asked what had happened on Sunday.
Hopefully, Gonzalez did not need to have any clothes laundered this morning.
It was hard to understand Gonzalez’s decision to bring Livan Hernandez in to a three-run game on Sunday with the bases loaded and one out. Even that imposter that crashed this past weekend’s alumni activities can occasionally put a 66-mph spinner in play every once in a while. Then to add to the disastrous turn of events we’ve witnessed the past three days, there was the decision to bring Cory Gearrin in to turn the switch-hitting Nick Swisher to the left side of the plate last night.
If that imposter knows how to hold a bat from the left side of the plate…
OK, we won’t go there. But the knock against Gearrin has always been that he can’t get left-handers out. Sure he improved his changeup and showed some improvement as left-handed hitters batted .236 (13-for-55) against him this year at the Minor League level. But this is not the International League and left-handed hitters had accounted for two of the four hits he had allowed while working just two innings the night before.
But with Eric O’Flaherty unavailable last night, Gearrin stood as one of Gonzalez’s few options once it was apparent Jonny Venters’ disastrous eighth inning appearance might actually get worse. He certainly was not going to turn to Hernandez again and with the game tied and the pitchers spot due up third in the bottom of the inning, they had to keep Cristhian Martinez ready to potentially make a multi-inning appearance.
Those of you who were calling for Craig Kimbrel to enter to record five outs, his only multi-inning appearance as a closer was created only because he was unable to hold a ninth-inning lead against the Dodgers on April 21, 2012.
Plus there obviously was not any reason for Kimbrel to know that he should begin warming up as soon as Venters entered the field. In other words, he was not going to be ready before Alex Rodriguez drilled his game-tying grand slam off of Venters.
Have to think even Ron Burgundy would say that eighth inning “escalated quickly.” Click here to get an idea of what A-Rod, Swisher and the rest of the Yankees thought of the inning.
While it’s easy to spew venom in the direction of bullpen management, the Braves have every reason to be more concerned about O’Flaherty’s elbow and the extended struggles Venters has experienced.
Before going any further, I’ll say that I would have also pulled Mike Minor and inserted Venters after the Yankees put a runner on base with one out in the eighth. Sure, you could have stuck with Minor one more batter. But it seemed to make more sense to go with Venters, who had allowed one hit in his previous five appearances.
Unfortunately, Venters pitched more like he had in May, when he surrendered three home runs and allowed opponents a .500 on-base percentage. The game-tying grand slam the left-hander surrendered Rodriguez was the fourth home run he has allowed in his past 12 2/3 innings. He had allowed a total of three home runs in the 182 1/3 innings he had compiled during this stretch.
Venters allowed a home run to Mark DeRosa in his first exhibition appearance this season and then recorded three strikeouts without being damaged by as much as a foul tip in his next appearance. The most concerning development in March might have been the discomfort he experienced around his biceps muscle near that latter part of the month.
While saying he has felt strong throughout this season, Venters simply has not generated groundballs with the same incredible frequency he had the previous two years.
Here are some numbers via Baseball-Reference.com:
Venters’ Groundball/Flyball Ratio
The balls hit in the air this year against Venters are also much more costly (numbers here are different than those seen on Twitter this afternoon. Difference between the way Fangraphs and B-Ref equate HR/FB percentage)
Venters’ HR/Flyball percentages
There is no doubt the HR/FB ratio will drop from this high level. But it will be interesting to see if Venters is able to start inducing groundballs as frequently as he did in the past.
Check back this afternoon for updates on O’Flaherty’s elbow and the plan for Kris Medlen, who could soon return to Atlanta as a starter or a reliever. If the Braves make a move today, I would think they will send Gearrin back to Gwinnett. Anthony Varvaro would be a candidate for a promotion.