Braves, Venters searching for answers
One year after preparing for his first All-Star Game, Jonny Venters appears to be a lost soul who has spent the past couple months searching to regain the successful form he possessed during his previous two seasons.
While uncorking another wild pitch that scored an inherited runner and surrendering yet another home run on Wednesday night, Venters made what will be his last big league appearance for a couple weeks.
Late Wednesday night, Luis Avilan Tweeted that he had been called up to the big league roster. When he arrives at Turner Field today, the left-handed reliever will likely hear a thing or two about how the club would like him to begin using Twitter as frequently as @TommyHanson48.
The Braves were planning to spend the early part of Thursday discussing the counter move for this transaction. They opted to put Venters on the 15-day disabled list with a left elbow impingement.
Before delving into the statistics, which I’m sure many of you have already analyzed, one of the most telling numbers is the percentage of fastballs that Venters has thrown.
According to FanGraphs, the average velocity of Venters’ fastball has dropped from 94.7 mph to 93.5 mph. Last year, his hard sinking fastball accounted for 79.7 percent of the pitches he threw. This year, that number has dipped to 62.4 percent.
Venters’ inability to command his fastball has led catcher Brian McCann and to some extent David Ross more hesitant to call for the pitch in many situations, primarily when there are men on base. This is a problem for any pitcher, especially one who has allowed opponents to compile a .412 on-base percentage.
Like Mariano Rivera would have been nothing without his cutter, Venters is nothing without his ability to confidently throw his hard sinker at any time. But until he regains confidence by consistently commanding the pitch, he will have problems.
It is amazing to think two of the three pitchers (Venters, Jair Jurrjens and Craig Kimbrel) who represented the Braves at last year’s All-Star Game have struggled to the point where the club has been forced to at least think about sending them to the Minors. But that’s not important right now. They simply have to hope Venters finds a way to prove serviceable again, like Jurrjens has after spending two months with Triple-A Gwinnett.
“You feel like you can get him over the hump, so you put him in situations where you think he can be successful,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday night. “If we don’t get him right and I don’t even mean last-year right, I’m just saying a good left-handed arm out of the bullpen, we’re going to be up against it. We’ll keep working. He’s got a good frame of mind.”
Those following on Twitter last night know that I was critical of Gonzalez’s decision to bring Venters in after Randall Delgado surrendered a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Three months into the season, we’ve seemingly come to the conclusion that the left-handed reliever is not the same guy he was last year when he might have been able to kill this threat with a couple strikeouts or weak grounders.
But like many Major League managers, Gonzalez chose to show faith in his guy one more time. Given the results, I think that it’s safe to assume the skipper would not even think about making the same decision again any time soon.
Through his first 40 appearances, Venters has posted a 4.45 ERA and a a 1.794 WHIP. He has surrendered six home runs and been charged with six wild pitches.
In his 85 appearances last year, Venters posted a 1.84 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. He surrendered two home runs and uncorked six wild pitches.
While limiting opponents to a .176 batting average, .289 on-base percentage and .219 slugging percentage last year, Venters saw his BAbip rest at .250.
This year while opponents have compiled a .313, .412 on-base percentage and .496 slugging percentage, his BAbip sits at .427.
Opponents recorded 72 total bases against Venters in 2010 and 66 last year. That number already sits at 65 this year.
It’s still amazing to think Venters allowed three home runs in the first 182 1/3 innings of his career and six in the 21 innings that have followed. Something is obviously not right and the Braves can only hope there is at least some sign of improvement before this season concludes.