Posts Tagged ‘Jonny Venters’

From the third week of May to the All-Star Break, when the Atlanta Braves were rolling, Billy Wagner was one of the best closers in baseball.

Over that approximate two month stretch, the 39-year-old southpaw was 16-for-17 in save opportunities while collecting one win in a total of 23 appearances.

However, since the dawn of the second half, Wagner has blown four saves in 13 chances (and given up a go-ahead, solo homer in a non-save situation–a game the Braves would lose).

But, hey everybody goes through rough stretches, right?

Well, there is reason to believe that might not be the case here.


When you consider the fact that Wagner blew a grand total three saves in the season’s first three-and-a-half months, you have to wonder if fatigue could be catching up with him.

And when you consider further that all of his, if you will, chokes have come either pitching on either zero or only one day’s rest (and the one day came after a high-stress BS in Florida), fatigue definitely looks as if it could be the culprit in this sudden drop-off.

Now, when the Braves assembled the 2010 club, the solution to this problem was simple: give Wags the day off and let Takashi Saito close out the game

But, now that option is, essentially, out the window.

After suffering a hamstring injury in Los Angeles earlier in the season, the Braves have used the 40-year-old Japanese righty sparingly, at best, and almost never in back-to-back contests.

And if the issue with Wagner is going to be going to be going in back-to-back games, it simply doesn’t make sense to run Wagner-Saito-Wagner-Saito when save situations, hypothetically, in four straight games (or maybe that’s just me–I just am not fond of a straight-up closer rotation since you’d basically be losing one reliever every night).

So, I am proposing a sort-of John Axford-like solution with 25-year-old phenom lefty Jonny Venters.

If you don’t know who that is, I’ll offer this explanation: he’s the dude that essentially took Trevor Hoffman’s job in Milwaukee.

Venters, who has a 1.09 ERA and 17 holds in 57.2 innings out of the Braves’ ‘pen (and only one homer allowed, to boot), has been one of the best relievers in baseball against both lefties (.183 BAA) and righties (.163 BAA) as he has worked batters over his 96 mph sinker and late-breaking slider in late-and-(usually) close situations to the tune of 65 strikeouts (to 25 BB).

While he lacks closing experience, his arsenal definitely reeks of closer stuff.

And even though Venters (who has gone back-to-back games too many times to count) has been a key cog in the middle-relief role in Atlanta, until Wagner (who has sang Venters’ praises–that’s why I think he’d be at least somewhat cool with this sort of set-up) shows the ability to become a consistent threat to slam the door on nightly basis, Venters needs to get chances in the ninth.

By sliding Wagner down into seventh- and eighth-inning roles (when the game won’t be put out of reach if he gets shaken up) to work on his ability to go back-to-back/rest up and giving Venters the near-every night job of shutting the door, the Braves, in my eyes, are giving themselves a better shot at finishing games unscathed.

That doesn’t mean Wagner gets completely kicked to the curb, though.

He would get to spell Venters occasionally and would be given the opportunity to get his job back if he performs well in set-up work (which should be the case if he gets fired up over this sort of demotion).

And if he does win the closing job back, his batteries should be re-charged from what would almost surely be a reduced workload.

Granted, the lack of “adrenaline” could make Wagner a liability any earlier than the ninth.

But even that doesn’t seem to be doing the trick for ol’ No. 13 right now.

For me, it’s an experiment worth taking a stab at–you really lose nothing by inserting a younger, equally dynamic arm into the ninth inning fold.

And if Wagner gets pissy, hey, he’s retiring after this season, anyway, right?

Shifting the load at the back of the ‘pen, on paper, makes the Braves a better team–simple as that


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“I don’t know what’s going on there. Bob Watson ought to take a look at it. Braun hits a home run, they drill him. He hits a home run, his next at-bat they drill him. That’s evidence enough for me for some guys to get suspended for quite a bit.”

Those were the words of Ken Macha, manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, following Saturday night’s game in Atlanta in which Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder was pegged by Braves lefty Jonny Venters in the eighth inning–a game the Brewers won by a final tally of six to three.

And you know what?

He’s off base.

The issues between the two sides stems from mutual unsportsmanlike banter–not Bobby Cox placing bounties on other teams’ player’s heads.

While Fielder was, in fact, grazed by a pitch on Friday following a Ryan Braun two-run homer delivered from Tommy Hanson (a guy who has plunked 11 batters–the highest total in the majors)–what Fielder did after making contact on a two run double later in the game is what lead to this situation boiling up a little more.

Prince, as we know, hasn’t exactly made friends of many of his opponents (see trying to invade the Dodgers’ dug-out and his orchestrating of a home plate celebration that lead to an eventual Spring Training plunking from Giants lefty Barry Zito).

From his somewhat entertaining boxing banter with teammate Ryan Braun (I kinda like that) to his “pimping” of swings (no one has enough of an uppercut to spring 270 (according to his player profile on pounds of man six inches (a bit of an exaggeration) off of the ground, the son of Cecil isn’t looking to let the egos of his enemies down easily.

And it was those “pimpings” on Friday night on his finish that likely got some rumblings going through the Braves’ clubhouse.

And when Fielder felt the urge to further punctuate his game-tying homer in Saturday night’s affair (at the start of a five-run Milwaukee inning) by not only leaping in the air, but also slamming his Louisville Slugger to the ground before rounding the bases (excusable in a walk-off, this one, once again, tied the game in the seventh)–he might as well have been taping a sign on his chest reading “hit me.”

After all, retribution for being “shown up,” like it or not, has been in the game of baseball since the first players started fooling around in sand lots.

So, when Jonny Venters buzzed Fielder’s dome (as had been done to Alex Gonzalez and Brian McCann on Friday, might I add) before driving a 92 mph two-seamer between Fielder’s two and eight (no way, even with Venters’ occasional wildness, that was an accident), the outrage over the score being settled (not upped once more) came as a surprise.

And, even of it wasn’t “even,” I’m not sure I get post-game tirades like the one from Macha (here are some more) are warranted after Fielder went out of his way to try and take out Alex Gonzalez’s legs on a double play.

But, one thing if for sure: this isn’t over.

The level of animosity following tonight’s (Saturday) game is simply too high for it to be finished.

Tomorrow (Sunday), somebody’s getting plunked.

Somebody’s getting ejected (especially with “Cowboy” Joe West in there).

And someone might feel the urge to throw some punches.

And, to answer the title (as if that hasn’t already been done), no.

Bobby Cox, after over 30 years in the game, is not telling his pitchers to go out there and mow down guys just for the hell of it.

The time comes when the players need to handle things amongst themselves–and this is one of those times.

No one’s trying to kill anybody–messages are just being sent between the two teams.


THIS ARTICLE IS SPONSORED BY: Karen Custom Cleaner (contact Cameron Britt for more information)