Friday, June 17, 2011

An Ode to Jonny Venters

Three thoughts triggered by this article in the Baseball Prospectus about Jonny Venters($):

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.


Caelus said...

I love this kid. I am just confused as to why he is not the closer. At least alternate him with Kimbrel as the opposing lineup dictates. He is rock solid two years in a row.

chg said...

A couple local fans were bragging about some recent Philly I'd never heard of who was a PA native. After they'd gone on for awhile, I played dumb and innocently asked, "Is that unusual?"

"Well, yeah, that's why we loved him. You have to admit it's pretty rare for a guy to get to play for the team he grew up rooting for."

Still using my best South Carolina 'killing them with kindness' voice, I said something like:

'Oh, I didn't realize that. I guess I'm spoiled growing up in the South. McCann went to one of my high school rivals. Tim Hudson and Ryan Howard are Georgia natives. The only reason I watch the Sixers are to keep up with a couple of the local Gwinnett County guys that carry the team.

I guess I just take it for granted, but it probably would be tough if I was from a place that doesn't really produce any high caliber athletes. That was pretty cool that you got to see that guy for a couple years.'

I've made lots of friends up here.