Thursday, July 5, 2012

Taking a Break from Jonny

There are some rumors stemming from a Luis Avilan tweet that the lefty will be headed to Atlanta and likely will be replacing Jonny Venters.  It would be cool if it was Avilan since he was one of my "Random Prospects" and would be the first of them to get the Walk-Off Walk bump.  Avilan had just joined the Gwinnett Braves today after the Atlanta cut D.J. Carrasco and needed a spot in AA for Ben Sheets.  On the year, Avilan was 3-6 for Mississippi with a 3.23 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, and a 1.8 K/BB ratio while appearing in 16 games and 12 starts.  In his last outing on July 1st, he struck out five over five scoreless, though he walked four.

However, this is more about Jonny Venters.  The left-hander appeared in his 40th game tonight, which is pretty absurd considering the quality of his pitching this season.  After Randall Delgado gave up a double to open the seventh, Fredi Gonzalez pulled the righty for Venters.  I could write a thesis on Fredi's inability to manage his starters properly and give his bullpen the best chance for success, but I haven't found the time just yet.  Venters induces a grounder that puts Darwin Barney, who doubled, on third with one out.  It was 2-1 at the time.  That's about when shit got real.  Wild pitch to score Barney, Jeff "Joe Don" Baker homers, and a grounder before Fredi, apparently feeling spry, removes Venters to led Chad Durbin finish the frame.

The homer given up to Baker was Venters's sixth homer allowed this year.  In his first two seasons, while pitching in about 7,000 games, Venters had allowed all of three homers.  We all know that Venters lives on his heavy sinker.  He's still inducing about 61% grounders, but when they get the bat under the ball, they are driving it to undisclosed locations.  To put it in another way...Venters has allowed 14 flyballs all season and almost half have left the reservation.  It is enough to wrinkle someone's brain.

It's mind boggling.  Venters has essentially lost confidence in his best pitch and has attempted to supplement a third pitch that he rarely utilized in '10-'11.  Last year, nearly 93% of pitches he threw were classified by his PITCHf/x as either his sinker or his slider.  Hell, 73% of the time, he was throwing sinkers.  The other 7% were called straight fastballs, unknown, and a super small percent of the time...0.1%...Venters threw his ugly changeup.  That was down from about 1% in 2010.  He averaged a little less than an 8 mph difference between the two and was probably his third or fourth pitch from his minor league starting days.  However, this season, likely because he has no confidence in his sinker since it's being bashed, Venters has thrown 7.2% changeups to absolutely no success.  And the odd thing is that Venters velocity is a tick down from 94-95 mph to 93-94 mph, but his changeup is a bit faster.  So, now there is a difference of about 6 mph.  I don't know if this paragraphs is all that meaningful, but it could be something.  Or nothing.

Regardless, Venters wFB (which does include sinkers/straight fastballs) last season was a nasty 11.9.  His slider is downright evil as well.  However, his wFB this season has almost gone completely the other way at -9.8.  His slider is still okay, but probably because people aren't in 0-2 and 1-2 counts where his slider become unhittable, the pitch has lost its evil factor. 

Add in a line drive rate that is 10% higher this season than last and just about anytime a player can put the ball into the air, he has a 50/50 shot at going yard and Venters has been a train-wreck to watch this season.  Some of it is bad luck.  A .432 BABIP stands out worse rational thought on Fox News.  His xFIP is pretty much in line with his previous numbers and really, his K and BB rate fairly in line with his career norms.  However, whether it's mechanical, injury, an arm that is overly fatigued from two abusive seasons, or he's betting on the other team, Venters has been a disaster for the Braves this season.  If the news is what it seems to be and he's headed down, hopefully, it will jump-start him.  Otherwise, Atlanta will be up a feces-filled creek. 

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