September 19, 2011 at 10:20 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
In September Jonny Venters has not been the same shut-down reliever we’ve come to expect, having given up 5 runs on 10 hits and 7 unintentional walks (plus a hit batter) with 10 strikeouts in 8 and 1/3 innings. Venters’ stuff remains intact–his strikeout rate being virtually unchanged–but his command has been poor, leading to the 8 free passes and, to a lesser extent, 10 hits. Because he has pitched a lot this year and struggled lately, many have jumped to the conclusion that his struggles are the result of being overworked. That’s certainly possible, but I’m not buying it.
The type of workload Jonny Venters has handled this year is not historically unique. Pitchers have been asked to pitch this often many times before and handled it just fine. Since 1995 24 pitchers have been asked to pitch in at least 80 games and face at least 350 batters without starting a game (Venters is currently at 81 and 340, so he’ll likely reach these thresholds over the next 9 games). On average, one or two pitchers a year since 1995 have been asked to do this. Venters is hardly in unique company.
Five of the 24 pitchers accomplished this before 2000–when baseball-reference started keeping track of the number of pitches a player throws. If Venters were on this list, the number of pitches he’s thrown would rank 19th of 20 since 2000. He could possibly get up to 16th by throwing at least 66 pitches over the season’s final 9 games (he’s averaged 15 and 1/2 pitches per appearance, so with 4 average appearances he’ll be close). The point being, Jonny Venters has actually been quite efficient and there is plenty of (recent) historical context for players throwing more pitches than he has this season and being successful.
There is also no medical or developmental reason to think Jonny Venters can’t handle one of the top reliever workloads in the game. The only medical issue Venters has had in his professional career is a UCL replacement surgery (Tommy John) in 2006. Surgery is serious business, obviously, but the procedure is basically automatic these days. Tommy John does not hinder a pitchers’ effectiveness or durability after they’re full recovered from the procedure. Since Venters fully recovered from his operation–and it did take longer than it normally would–he has been exceptionally healthy. Furthermore, Venters is 26 years old, past the age at which you have to worry about damaging yet-to-be-fully-formed joints and at least a decade before the age at which you have to worry about overworking an older player.
The ‘overworked’ explanation seems, at best, purely speculative. There is no evidence that this is the case and no evidence that asking Venters to pitch this much was irresponsible. Sure, there have been games that Venters needlessly pitched in, but I’m not buying that as the reason he’s struggled as of late. Which isn’t to say it isn’t the reason–it very well could be–but there are tons of other explanations that have nothing to do with the fact that Venters has pitched as much as many before him have and been fine.
[UPDATE: If I'd seen this before I could have cut this article in half. Great job by Dave Cameron (Insider)]
September 16, 2011 at 11:10 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Podcast
In episode eight we discuss the minor league season, July 31st and August 31st acquisitions, the postseason pitching staff, and the recent struggles of Brian McCann and Martin Prado. Music courtesy of Herb Ellis and Joe Pass.
September 12, 2011 at 9:53 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
That was an ugly sweep in St. Louis. Fortunately, Atlanta’s wild card lead is still virtually insurmountable. Part of the reason is their remaining schedule:
The Braves lead the Cardinals by 4 games in the loss column. They play the Mets, Marlins, and Nationals over their next 12 games. If the Cardinals don’t gain at least one game in the loss column over those 12 games, Atlanta will have clinched the wild card before Philadelphia comes to town. If St. Louis gains one game, they still have to sweep the Astros on the road and hope Philadelphia sweeps Atlanta at home to force a 1-game playoff. You have to like Atlanta’s chances of winning the wild card.
The much greater concern is getting Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jonny Venters, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, and Brian McCann to produce like they’re expected to heading into (and during) the playoffs.
September 10, 2011 at 10:49 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Chipper Jones has spent the past few games hitting second. A few quick thoughts on the change.
- It’s a good spot for him to be hitting. This has been hashed many, many times, but managers frequently neglect the importance of the #2 spot. The #2 spot is where one of the team’s best three hitters should hit. Chipper is probably one of the team’s best three hitters right now, and if not he’s close. Martin Prado had been hitting second a lot before Chipper took over and he is certainly not one of the team’s best three hitters. By switching Prado with Chipper in the batting order the Braves are creating more runs.
- I really like the fact that Chipper is intent on not changing his approach based on his line-up spot. Chipper’s approach is one of the best in the game. It works. He shouldn’t change it based on where he’s hitting in the line-up. In certain base/out states the relative value of each batting event changes and the player should alter his approach accordingly, but tailoring one’s approach according to the situation–rather than his batting order position–is the correct way to handle this.
- Fredi Gonzalez said Chipper won’t be asked to bunt. Just having a #2 hitter that the manager won’t be tempted to ask to lay down a bunt is worth something. Giving away an out with your #2 hitter means either you’ve made a poor in-game tactical decision or picked the wrong #2 hitter.
September 5, 2011 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
I’m sure when we looked at the schedule in March and saw two September series against the Phillies we thought we would be in for some high-stakes, playoff atmosphere baseball. It’s September 5th, the Braves are traveling to Philadelphia for a 3-game set, and it couldn’t possibly mean less. The Phillies have the division virtually locked up and the Braves are all but guaranteed to win the wild card. Despite the insignificance of the results, when the Phillies and Braves get together we usually see some great baseball. That alone is enough of a reason to watch.
With that in mind we’ve brought in Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley to answer a few questions about the Phillies heading into what I’ll call a possible NLCS preview series. Thanks to Bill for the thoughtful answers.
1. What is the Phillies’ postseason rotation going to look like?
There are three definite spots filled, assuming good health the rest of the way. (And, as you can tell me, that’s not the most solid of assumptions.) The debate comes down to the #4 spot, which will come down to Roy Oswalt and Vance Worley. As most Phillies fans will tell you, Worley has been the better pitcher this year. His xFIP is about a third of a run lower and he hasn’t been battling injuries. Oswalt’s velocity has been inconsistent as have his results. I could very easily see Worley getting the nod, but Oswalt is the slight favorite at the moment simply because of his status as a former ace and a veteran.
2. With the acquisition of Hunter Pence, the Phillies don’t seem to have a weakness. Is there one I’m not picking up on?
The bullpen has to be considered the weakness at this point, but it’s only before you get to Antonio Bastardo in the eighth and Ryan Madson in the ninth. In this post, you can see just how good the two have been. Otherwise, the Phillies are crossing their fingers on any given night with Michael Stutes, David Herndon, and Michael Schwimer. If a team can knock one of the Phillies’ starters out before the seventh, they should feel like they have at least a glimmer of hope to score some more runs.
3. Free Domonic Brown, am I right?
Yeah, you know exactly what some of us in Philly are going through with Brown since you have a bit of an analog in Jason Heyward. Obviously, Heyward is better and has been better, but both are two highly-touted prospects that haven’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations (partially as a result of injuries, as well).
Raul Ibanez has been awful all year both offensively and defensively (and on the bases). I’d love to see Ibanez benched in the playoffs in favor of a platoon where John Mayberry Jr. plays against lefties and Brown plays against right-handers. But Charlie Manuel is known for his loyalty to his players, particularly veterans, so I don’t see that actually happening.
4. The Phillies are 14 wins away from setting the all-time franchise record for wins in a season. Are they going to do it?
Yeah. They can get to 101 wins and tie the mark just by playing .500 ball the rest of the way. I can see them going 14-12 or better, easily.
5. Shane Victorino has gotten some MVP attention as of late. To me, that is patently ridiculous. Victorino has had an outstanding year, but he’s at best Philadelphia’s 4th most valuable player. If a Phillie wins the MVP award, I think it should be Halladay, Hamels, or Lee. What is your take on this “Victorino for MVP” stuff?
I don’t think he is the MVP of the National League at the moment, but he should be in the conversation. As I’m answering this question (before stats have been updated to reflect Sunday’s games), he is fifth in the NL in fWAR. He’s a plus in every facet of his game, and he’s having a career year offensively. Recently, I looked at the top-five offensive seasons since 2006 by a Phillie, going by a player’s wRC divided by his team’s overall wRC, and Shane just missed the cut, representing 14.4% of his team’s offense.
If we’re talking specifically about “most valuable” and not the award — as I believe the Cy Young is the MVP award for pitchers — then I think Roy Halladay has been the Phillies’ most valuable player. One could make the argument to put Hamels and Lee ahead of Victorino as well, and I wouldn’t care enough to counter-argue. But simply recognizing Victorino’s greatness this year isn’t egregious and he should certainly be given some MVP votes for 3-5th place, somewhere around there.
6. What do the Phillies need to figure out with respect to their post-season roster between now and October?
It goes back to what I was talking about with Brown. It’d be awesome if they realized just how much dead weight they have in Ibanez and reduce his playing time significantly in favor of Mayberry and Brown. But, since I don’t see them doing that, then it certainly has to be their #4 spot in the rotation. It will play a surprisingly important role especially in the NLCS and World Series, should they be fortunate enough to advance.
7. Related: is Wilson Valdez going to be on the post-season roster? If so, as a position player or pitcher?
Haha, that would be an interesting maneuver, no? The Phillies don’t have the need for a bullpen like some other teams, so they could carry an extra position player. I do see Valdez making the post-season roster. As far as back-up infielders go, they have Michael Martinez and Valdez and I see both making the cut.
August 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Acquired SS Jack Wilson from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later.
If you thought the Matt Diaz post was lazy, you’re in for something special.
Jack Wilson is hitting .249/.283/.295. Sub-.250, no power, never walks. That’s fine, because he’s a few years removed from being the best defensive SS in the game and is still an above-average fielding SS. AKA, he does *something*. The guy he’s replacing–Julio Lugo–brings nothing to the table. This is a definite upgrade. Again, if the PTBNL isn’t a prospect this is a good deal.
The Braves will likely take a David Ross, Jack Wilson, Brooks Conrad, Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz, and Jose Constanza bench into the postseason. I could definitely get behind that. Frank Wren had a really, really good day.
August 31, 2011 at 9:19 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Acquired OF Matt Diaz and cash from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
I don’t suppose the PTBNL will be announced any time soon. Nor do I expect we will learn how much cash the Pirates sent to Atlanta in the deal in a timely fashion. So, I might as well go ahead and write something about this, even in the absence of the information required to evaluate the transaction properly.
Matt Diaz is by all accounts a great guy. That’s fine, it certainly can’t hurt. He can actually help the team on the field by hitting lefties, something he’s always done and is still–even in a down year–doing acceptably. The Braves as a whole have hit .226/.294/.352 against lefties this year. Matt Diaz has hit .295/.342/.362 against lefties this year. Not awesome, but certainly useful. Better than what most of Atlanta’s 2B/3B/LF/RF pool has done against lefties.
He strengthens the line-up against LHP and gives the Braves a non-embarrassing pinch-hitting option against LHP apart from Brooks Conrad. Hopefully this spells the end of Lugo pinch-hitting.
As long as the PTBNL isn’t a prospect, there’s no reason to dislike this deal.