1. The Braves should hold a parade down Peachtree Street for whoever made the decision to convert Venters into a reliever and convinced him to drop everything but his sinker and slider:
While it might be interesting to look forward two years and speculate about what kind of money Venters could make in arbitration, it is also instructive to turn the clock back two years. In 2009, Venters was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett after making 12 starts for Double-A Mississippi to begin the season. He posted a 5.62 ERA in 17 starts and 91 1/3 inning,s as International League hitters averaged 10.1 hits per nine innings. Venters also walked 4.1 per nine while striking out just 5.7, and it appeared that the Braves' 30th-round draft pick in 2003 had hit the wall.
However, the Braves decided to switch Venters to relief last year, telling him to junk his changeup and curveball and stick to a sinker/slider combination. It proved to be a wise decision, as Venters has been dominant since moving to the bullpen, averaging 94.5 mph on his sinker and 84.9 mph on his sinker (hat tip to Fangraphs), rare velocity for a left-hander. Many scouts believe that Venters has the best sinker in the game because of both its velocity and its movement.
"When I was a starter, I'd get tired and just run out of gas," Venters said. "I never really learned how to pace myself. I'd go all out on every pitch, then be dead by the fourth inning. Now, I can put everything I have into every pitch, and it's more fun for me to pitch that way."
Now, can the Braves replicate this decision three more times so we no longer have to trust games to Linebrink and Sherrill?
2. I doubt that Fredi has thought this through, but the Braves are saving themselves a lot of money by keeping Venters in the set-up role because relievers get paid for saves and Venters isn't getting a chance to save games.
3. It's fun to root for a team full of players from the region:
Venters and Kimbrel, a couple of Southerners, have become best friends. Venters hails from Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Kimbrel has his roots in Huntsville, Ala. Because of that friendship, Venters says he is not concerned about who generates more publicity.
"Craig and I have just a great relationship," Venters said. "We don't really care who has what role. It's just awesome for us two to be pitching together late in the game. Craig is a great kid, and we have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot down in the bullpen and have a good time until it's time to get serious and go to work."
With Venters, Kimbrel, Heyward, Chipper, Hudson, Minor, McCann, and Uggla, this team has a connection to the region that supports them, unlike some other teams in markets that allegedly love baseball a lot more than this one.