Blog Entry

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:25 am

By Matt Snyder

While the national audience Sunday night didn't see the duo at their best, the Braves' promising young duo of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters comprises the most dominant, intimidating and electric back-end of the bullpen in the majors. They already have a combination of stuff, swagger and statistics.

Venters, 26, has now thrown 101 2/3 innings in his career. He's allowed one home run (ONE!) and struck out 112 hitters. This season, he's thrown 18 2/3 innings and allowed just nine hits, two earned runs and four walks -- good for a 0.96 ERA and 0.70 WHIP.

Kimbrel, 22, has yet to allow a home run in his 36 1/3 career innings. He's only given up 18 hits, though, which is simply ridiculous. His lone issue is control, as he has walked 23 hitters, though he's drastically cut down on the rate this season, shelling out seven free passes in 15 2/3 innings. Kimbrel has struck out 62 hitters in those 36 1/3 career innings, a staggering total for a pitcher so young. He's got a 1.72 ERA this season and the mark is 0.99 in his career.

It's more than just numbers. These guys make opposing hitters look thoroughly baffled. Kimbrel's fastball-slider combo in particular is a thrill to watch, though Venters' stuff is nothing to ignore.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the upside of Venters and Kimbrel is the relative obscurity of Eric O'Flaherty. The 26-year-old left-hander is also in the Braves' bullpen and he's got a 1.02 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 17 2/3 innings this season. Due to the presence and greatness of Venters and Kimbrel, however, O'Flaherty is relegated to also-ran status. Just don't forget about him. That's a strong close, one that gives the Braves the ability to shorten games to six innings.

The question is, does anyone else have a backside trio better than the Braves' young guns?

The Cubs can make a good case. Carlos Marmol (1.72), Sean Marshall (0.64) and Kerry Wood (1.38) are their final three. With Wood aging and Marmol's inability to shake his control woes, I think I'd take the Braves for the long-term. With Heath Bell (1.29), Mike Adams (1.06) and Chad Qualls (2.50), the Padres have a great case, too. For this season, it's a tough call but I don't think you can definitely say the Braves' trio is worse than either of those. And it's a good bet either Bell or Adams (or both) aren't on the Padres come August.

If things broke the right way, the Yankees could have a case. Mariano Rivera is obvious, Rafael Soriano was arguably the best closer last season and we know the potential Joba Chamberlain has (had?). They aren't there now, though, not collectively.

The Reds have fireballer Aroldis Chapman and veteran closer Francisco Cordero. Bill Bray's sporting a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings, too.

If Andrew Bailey and Joey Devine come back healthy and round back into form, the A's will be in the mix.

Brian Wilson and nearly any two others for the Giants are a solid top three, but not on level with the Braves' boys.

The Indians, Marlins and Rays have all done pretty stellar work thus far in the back-end, too, but you'll have to forgive me for not trusting the likes of Tony Sipp, Randy Choate and Kyle Farnsworth for the long haul in 2011 and beyond.

If you're looking for a trio of pitchers to shorten a game, there is none in the business better than O'Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel. They're all 26 or younger and under team control for a while. They're only going to get better as confidence grows, assuming they stay healthy.

Put simply, games where the Braves take an early lead are going to be awfully short for opponents in the years to come.

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 4:05 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:59 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

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Since: Aug 28, 2008
Posted on: May 10, 2011 9:17 am

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

You do realize that the Braves have a better stats than the Phillies starting rotation, right??
They've allowed the fewest homeruns, fewest earned runs and lead the NL in ERA.   With Lowe and Hudson as veterans and Hanson with a year under his belt, Jurrjens pitching back to his normal self after getting rid of the nagging injuries and Beachy filling in fantastically for Kris Medlen, I'd say that the Braves will be JUST FINE.  Not to mention that they have three (supposedly) stud pitchers waiting in the wings in the minors.
Add Kimbrel, Venters and O'Flaherty (not to mention Peter Moylan who's on the DL, right now).  The Braves can shorten games to the FIFTH inning when Moylan comes back.
I think they can and will compete with the Phillies.  I'm not sure it will be enough to win the NL East but they will compete for it.

Since: May 10, 2011
Posted on: May 10, 2011 9:17 am

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

Great article.  Nice to see Eric O'Flaherty get some mention.  He has been solid since the Braves picked him up off of the scrap heap a couple of years ago.  I have no idea why the Mariners ever waived him.  Most late inning leads are safe with the Braves. 

Since: Jun 5, 2009
Posted on: May 9, 2011 6:11 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

Also...CBS needs an edit button. I made numerous typos in my previous post, but I can't correct them... *sigh*

Since: Jun 5, 2009
Posted on: May 9, 2011 6:10 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

Meh! FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR too early to look at stuff like this. Your examples prove that point. the Rays pen? Farnsworth? C'mon..  Might as well throw the Pirates' Veras, McCutchen and Hanrahan in there. I'm a diehard Pirates fan, but even I know that their incredibly numbers aren't gonna hold up. Venters and Kimbrel are good, but I doubt those numbers hold throughout the year

Besides, whether good pitching beats good hitting or not, I'd take good starting pitching over good relievers any day. That's why, as an entirely unbiased observer, I don't see how this 'pen gets the Braves beyond the starting pitchers of Philly come October

Since: Sep 12, 2006
Posted on: May 9, 2011 2:58 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

When it's all said and done, this trio will be more prolific than the Reds "Nasty Boys" (Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers) of the early 1990's.  With the starting rotation they have, the Braves will be playing deep into October, proving once again that good pitching ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, beats good hitting.

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:43 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs


Kimbrel BB/9 was 7.0 last season. It's 4.0 this season. Three walks per nine innings reduction is pretty drastic. The 23 walks I mentioned were total for his whole career. He walked 16 in 20 2/3 last year.

Oh, and he hasn't allowed a run against the Phillies in four outings. He's been worse against teams above .500, but it's a 2.35 ERA and four of his eight saves came there. That's hardly bad.

- Matt

Since: Dec 27, 2008
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:38 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

"His lone issue is control, as he has walked 23 hitters, though he's drastically cut down on the rate this season, shelling out seven free passes in 15 2/3 "

4.5 BB per 9 inning isn't a "drastic reduction".   These guys have the highets upside, combined with youth so you gotta love them but lets see them rack up some when it counts, night after night against good teams.  Farming saves off lesser teams isn't impressive. His struggles, if you lok at the gamelogs, have been versus Philly, St Louis etc....namely the better teams on their schedule.

Since: Jul 4, 2007
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:29 pm

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

Im sorry to sound biased, but no metion of the Nationals pen? Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard are two of the best relievers in the game. To mention Kyle Farnsworth but neither of those guys is a crime.

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