Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jonny Venters And Reliever Usage

Jonny Venters appeared in his 16th game for the month of June. That's out of 26 games. He has appeared in 46 games and pitched 51 innings. The Braves have played 82 games.

While Fredi Gonzalez has limited Venters' three-day outings (three appearances in three days) to only two so far this season, this doesn't hide the fact that Venters is getting almost no rest. When Venters pitches on consecutive days, whether it's two or three days in a row, he averages a little over one full day of rest. He has pitched on consecutive days 15 times. That means when he pitches two days in a row, more often than not he's back out there after one day of rest, and sometimes he is again pitching on consecutive days, so he ends up throwing four out of five days.

This type of usage has been common for Venters this season, and it's unacceptable for him to have this many innings pitched this early in the season. It's understandable to want arguably the best reliever in baseball on the mound as much as possible, but you have to protect your talent, and Fredi has done nothing to protect this talent.

But perhaps even worse than Venters' amount of usage is how he's being used. Peter at Capitol Avenue Club wrote on this yesterday:

"This is what happens when you manage straight out of the Tony LaRussa handbook. You end up burning your relief aces when you don’t need them and when you actually do they’re unavailable, either because that’s not the (illogically defined) role you’ve assigned them or because they’re worn out from protecting almost already assured victories. Venters is probably unavailable all weekend because he’s pitched six times in the last eight days, four of the appearances coming in spots with leverage indexes under one and three of them being legitimate mop-up situations (pLI’s of 0.53, 0.27, 0.17)."

Venters came in to Wednesday's game having pitched in eight of the past 13 games, including three of the past four. The Braves had a four-run lead against one of the worst offenses in baseball in one of the biggest pitcher's parks in baseball. But Fredi's reason for using Venters is because it was 5-1 instead of 6-1.

I cannot grasp this way of thinking. It makes no sense to me. All I know is, if Fredi continues to think this way about his using of Venters, he will run the guy into the ground and the Braves will either have him at 30% for the stretch run or not at all.

Venters has appeared in 14 games in which the player Leverage Index was below 1. He has appeared in nine games in which the index was between 1 and 1.5. He has appeared in 23 games in which the index was above 1.5. So overall, he's being placed in high leverage situations more often than not, mainly because he isn't relegated to the closer's role like Craig Kimbrel.

The problem, as Peter pointed out, is that Fredi is getting greedy with how Venters is being used. Four of his past six outings have had a pLI below 1, including a 0.17 and 0.27. With as many innings as Venters is seeing, you would think a manager would be able to notice he's being used in unnecessary situations. Unfortunately, it takes a two-run home run for Fredi to notice. This is the type of manager the Braves have.

I often watch Braves games and wonder what Frank Wren and John Schuerholz are thinking as Fredi manages.

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