Tag:Jonny Venters
Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm

Loaded pitching highlights NL East All-Stars

By Matt Snyder

2011 All-Star Game
SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL Central | NL West
The strength of this divisional All-Star team is going to be mitigated by the fact that we're only picking one starting pitcher, one non-closing reliever and one closer, because this sucker is stacked with pitching. The lineup is no slouch either, in what is probably the second-best division in the majors, if not better than the vaunted AL East. I would have said the NL East was better top-to-bottom if it wasn't for that dreadful June by the Marlins. Anywho, let's get to it.

C Brian McCann, Braves: It's an easy choice, but that doesn't mean the other guys suck. Not by any stretch. Carlos Ruiz, Ronny Paulino, John Buck and Wilson Ramos are admirable backstops to varying degrees, but McCann is the best catcher in baseball this season, hands down. He's hitting .314 with 14 homers and an OPS over .900, not to mention he calls the games for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins: Before freaking out, Phillies fans, remember we're using DHs in this little exercise (wink, wink). We're also going to set Michael Morse aside for later and Ike Davis is injured. So it boils down to Freddie Freeman and Gaby Sanchez. Freeman's been hot of late and is hitting .279 with 13 homers, 42 RBI and a .354 OBP. Sanchez is hitting .290 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and a .370 OBP. He's also superior defensively be several metrics, so it's Sanchez in a close call.

No. Name Team Pos
1 Jose Reyes NYM SS
2 Shane Victorino PHI CF
3 Gaby Sanchez FLA 1B
4 Ryan Howard PHI DH
5 Carlos Beltran NYM RF
6 Michael Morse WAS LF
7 Brian McCann ATL C
8 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B
9 Placido Polanco PHI 3B
2B Danny Espinosa, Nationals: Tough call over Chase Utley here, but Espinosa has played in 89 games to Utley's 38, so that makes the choice much easier. Espinosa, the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner at this point, has played a great second base for the Nats in addition to developing as a power hitter. He has 16 home runs and 52 RBI to go along with 11 stolen bases.

3B Placido Polanco, Phillies: We'd be a lot stronger here if David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Chipper Jones were completely healthy and hitting up to their full potential, but things haven't gone that way. Jones is in obvious age decline, Zimmerman has struggled -- until very recently -- after a lenghty stint on the DL and Wright has been on the shelf for all but 39 games. Polanco, on the other hand, has provided steady defense for the Phillies at the hot corner and is hitting .274 with a .331 OBP. 

SS Jose Reyes, Mets: Back in early April, we may have thought this would be a three-horse race between Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Reyes, but it's not even close. Ramirez had been awful up until the past few weeks and while Rollins is good, Reyes has been an MVP candidate -- at least until he fell injured a few days ago. Reyes leads the majors in hits, triples and batting average while also leading the NL in runs scored.

LF Michael Morse, Nationals: Hey, he's played 27 games in left, even though he's primarily a first baseman now. I'm using him here because we wanted to put together the best possible lineup and the other choices out in left in this division weren't great. Logan Morrison was the next best choice, while Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are simply far overpaid at this point. Morse, however, has been tearing the cover off the ball since the beginning of May. He's hitting .303 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and an .887 OPS.

CF Shane Victorino, Phillies: The All-Star is really the only choice here. Angel Pagan was injured for a while Victorino has far exceeded the production of Roger Bernadina. Victorino's hitting .303 with a .376 OBP, 53 runs and 13 steals. He also plays a stellar center field behind that vaunted Phillies pitching staff.

RF Carlos Beltran, Mets: Who woulda thought this one coming into the season, huh? You've got the young studs Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward out in right in this division, meanwhile Beltran had to move to right from center to keep his knee injury from reaggravating. All he's done is go out and make his sixth All-Star team. In addition to leading the NL in doubles (26), Beltran is hitting .283 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI and a robust .372 OBP.

DH Ryan Howard, Phillies: If Chipper Jones or Ryan Zimmerman were having better seasons or David Wright and Ike Davis were healthy, this might have been a much tougher choice. Stanton could be an option, too, but I'm going Howard. He has 18 homers, an NL-best 71 RBI, an .842 OPS and just feels like a menacing DH in the batter's box.

SP Roy Halladay, Phillies: Do I seriously have to pick just one? We could put together a five-man rotation of ace-caliber pitchers -- Halladay, Jair Jurrjens, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Tommy Hanson -- and still have the likes of Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann and the injured Josh Johnson left over. What if Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg were healthy? This is the most pitching-rich division in the majors, including the bullpen. And it's only going to get better as the young arms further develop and a dude named Stephen Strasburg gets healthy. Anyway, I have to pick one, so it's the best pitcher in baseball. Maybe Justin Verlander has a case over Halladay, but he's not in this division. Just remember, if we went out to 25-man rosters, this division would have the sickest pitching staff of all.

RP Jonny Venters, Braves: Antonio Bastardo has been excellent for the Phillies. He has a 0.87 ERA and has stranded over 99 percent of his baserunners. He's struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings and has now collected five saves. Tyler Clippard has also been outstanding. He has a 1.86 ERA and strikes out batters at an even higher pace than Bastardo. But Venters has been dominant in 53 1/3 innings (Bastardo has 31) and has thrown in more high-leverage situations than Clippard. According to FanGraph's wins above replacement player, the only relief pitcher in the NL more valuable than Venters this season has been Craig Kimbrel, who you'll see below.

CL Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Drew Storen and Francisco Rodriguez have been good, but Kimbrel leads the majors with 27 saves and has struck out 70 batters in just 45 innings. Sure, he's blown five saves, but none since June 8. Since then, he's closed all nine opportunities and hasn't even given up a run in his last 13 games. He definitely looks the part of a young Billy Wagner. Only workload is a concern for the 23-year-old at this point.

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2011 3:39 pm

National League pitchers and reserves

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Albert Pujols may be back before the All-Star Game, the Cardinals said on Saturday, but he won't be on the All-Star team. Here's the rest of the National League team:

National League


Jonny Venters, Braves (players' pick)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (players' pick)

Cole Hamels, Phillies (players' pick)

Jair Jurrjens, Braves (players' pick)

Joel Hanrahan, Pirates (players' pick)

Heath Bell, Padres (manager's pick)

Matt Cain, Giants (manager's pick)

Roy Halladay, Phillies (players' pick)

Tim Lincecum, Giants (manager's pick)

Brian Wilson, Giants (players' pick)

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants (manager's pick)

Cliff Lee, Phillies (player's pick)

Tyler Clippard, Nationals (manager's pick)


OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks (manager's pick)

3B Chipper Jones, Braves (players' pick)

SS Starlin Castro, Cubs (manager's pick)

2B Brandon Phillips, Reds (players' pick)

OF Jay Bruce, Reds (players' pick)

1B Joey Votto, Reds (players' pick)

SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (players' pick)

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (manager's pick)

OF Hunter Pence, Astros (players' pick)

OF Carlos Beltran, Mets (manager's pick)

OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals (players' pick)

C Yadier Molina, Cardinals (players' pick)

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Posted on: June 29, 2011 10:25 pm

Venters struggles again, workload to be monitored

By Matt Snyder

Braves relief pitcher Jonny Venters was arguably the best relief pitcher in the majors less than a week ago. He went into last Sunday with a 0.56 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. He was so dominant he had only allowed 24 hits. Since then, however, his ERA has gone all the way up to 1.59 after some shaky outings, including allowing two runs in the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon. About three weeks ago, I pointed out Venters was amassing a huge workload and he's still on pace for 100 innings in 90 appearances. Both would likely lead the league for relievers, as those are big numbers. So it begs the question, is he being overused, which has caused his recent dip in production?

It's entirely possible, and apparently Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is aware of the situation.

“Roger [McDowell, pitching coach] and I have spoken about that already today,” Gonzalez said (AJC.com). “It’s something that we’ve got to manage it a little bit. I hate to say anything about it because everybody reads the paper and you don’t want to give any secrets away to [the opponent in] the next series that’s coming up. But yeah, it’s something we’ve spoken about.”

Venters doesn't exactly rule out the workload as the root of his issues, but takes the blame for missing his spots.

“My sinker’s been up in the zone,” Venters said (AJC.com). “I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired or what, but I feel fine. I’ve been missing my spots, and it’s been up in the zone, falling behind [in counts], and it’s just ... it’s just been tough.”

This is a situation that certainly bears watching. The Braves have won eight of their last 10 and currently have a three-game lead in the Wild Card standings. Venters and Craig Kimbrel have been quite the one-two punch at the back-end of the Braves' bullpen, but if either one falls apart down the stretch due to being overextended, the ballclub is drastically weakened.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 26, 2011 10:55 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 10:07 am

3 Up, 3 Down: Romero does it all

By Matt Snyder

Ricky Romero, Blue Jays. Romero entered Sunday with a 2.98 ERA, but a 6-7 record. Here's the number of runs scored in support of Romero in his seven losses: 2, 1, 0, 0, 3, 2, 0. Sunday, Romero took matters into his own hands on the mound and in the batter's box as a veritable one-man wrecking crew. Romero went the distance on the hill, throwing a four-hit shutout and striking out five. He also had a two-RBI single in the sixth.

Danny Espinosa, Nationals. The Nationals didn't even record their first hit until the sixth inning, but Espinosa came through with the big blow in the seventh. The rookie second baseman hit a two-run homer of Philip Humber to give the Nats a 2-1 lead, and that ended up being the final score. Espinosa now has 14 home runs, 47 RBI and is possibly on his way to winning the NL Rookie of the Year, should things continue on this path. Meanwhile, the Nationals sent interim manager John McLaren out with a 2-1 record and have won 13 of 15 games.

Madison Bumgarner, Giants. The youngster was huge last year down the stretch in propelling the Giants to the NL West title and ultimately World Series championship with an absolute gem in Game 4. This season, Bumgarner had scuffled prior to Sunday. He came in with a 3-9 record and 4.06 ERA. He hadn't gotten lots of run support, but had also been knocked around a bit. His last outing -- 1/3 inning, nine hits, eight earned runs -- was an unmitigated debacle. But Sunday night, in front of a nationwide audience, Bumgarner stepped up with a huge outing. He worked seven innings and allowed just six hits, one walk and one run. He struck out a career-high 11 batters in the Giants' 3-1 victory. With the win, they swept the Indians and are now up 1 1/2 games in the NL West. While we're here, let's note Jeremy Affeldt pitched two perfect innings for the Giants to close it out and struck out five. Quite a day for the Giants pitching staff.

Jonny Venters, Braves. It was a rough afternoon for the man who entered Sunday as arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball. Venters brought in a 0.56 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. He'd only allowed 24 hits all season. Yet Sunday, in one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors against one of the weakest hitting teams in the majors, Venters couldn't finish the eighth inning. There were two infield singles and later an intentional walk that were out of Venters' control, but he walked the leadoff man and allowed back-to-back singles to Orlando Hudson and Chase Headley before being chased. Venters' final line showed 2/3 of an inning with four hits, four earned runs and two walks. He had only allowed three earned runs all season before the outing. This is likely only a blip on the radar, but it's still worthy of mention due to how big an outlier it appears to be.

Pirates defense. We discussed the Cardinals' defensive woes Saturday night and now it's time to look at another team in the NL Central -- which, by the way, is easily the worst defensive division in baseball. Only the Reds are better than average and at least three of the division's six teams are dreadful in the field. Anyway, I slightly digress. In going for the sweep against the Red Sox, the Pirates kicked the ball around Sunday. They committed four errors, which led to three unearned runs allowed and a two-run loss. These are precisely the kind of games the new Pirates -- who are still above .500 and within four games in the NL Central -- are trying to eliminate from their arsenal.

Diamondbacks bullpen. Starting pitcher Joe Saunders entered Sunday with a 4.35 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He had a 4-7 record for a team only a 1/2 game out of first place. All he did against a very capable Tigers offense was throw seven innings and allow just four hits, one walk and one run. He struck out eight and departed the game with a 2-1 lead. Just an inning later, the Tigers held an 8-2 lead and then ended up winning 8-3. The culprits: Relievers Aaron Heilman, David Hernandez and Bryan Shaw. The three combined to cough up six hits, six earned runs and two walks ... all in the span of only recording three outs. The Tigers' seventh run in the inning scored on an error, but the game had gotten out of hand by that point.

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Posted on: June 16, 2011 1:39 am

Bochy to use Giant bias for All-Star nods

Sergio Romo

By C. Trent Rosecrans

When filling out the roster for the All-Star team, National League manager Bruce Bochy said he'll have at least one easy tie-breaker -- if the player is a Giant, he will get the nod.

"I'll try to be fair, but I'll be biased, to be honest," Bochy told reporters, including Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. "If I can get guys from my club on there, I'll do it. That's the prerogative you get as manager."

That attitude is far from unusual, even if it's not really fair. But as long as the current system is in place, it'll continue to happen. And while I don't necessarily like it, I do understand it. As a manager, your No. 1 priority is your own team and its well-being. If you can boost the confidence or reward one of your own players and get them in your corner, you're going to do it. Bochy will do it, Ron Washington will do it and I would do it if I were in their shoes. It's just the way it is. Last season Joe Girardi named eight Yankees to the All-Star team and according to Baggarly, since 1996 pennant winners have averaged 4.7 representatives in the game.

However, Bochy is looking at doing one thing differently in picking his All-Star squad -- loading up on middle relievers. Bochy said he is looking hard at adding the likes of his set-up men, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez to the team. He also said he's giving serious consideration to Atlanta's Jonny Venters and Washington's Tyler Clippard. All four are certainly worthy, especially over a pitcher earning cheap saves for a bad team.

Really, who is more deserving of an All-Star spot -- Leo Nunez and Huston Street, or Venters and Romo?

Nunez and Street each have 19 saves -- one fewer than league-leader Brian Wilson (a Giant who will likely get an All-Star nod) -- but Nunez has a 3.77 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, while Street has a 3.69 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Meanwhile, Romo has a 2.29 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP (in fewer innings, to be sure) and Venters (who has more innings than either Nunez or Street) has a 0.44 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP. Venters may be baseball's best reliever right now, if he's not an All-Star this season, nobody is.

The All-Star manager picking more middle relievers is another move away from a reliance on the save stat -- and with expanded rosters and homefield advantage on the line, middle relievers are more likely to be used in situational moves and in the type of situations they are used to, in the middle of an inning with runners on. Closers usually come in with a clean slate in the ninth, needing just three outs to pick up the save, while a guy like Venters or Romo is used to coming in with men on and the game on the line.

And when it comes down to that situation, Bochy -- or any manager -- will want to put the game on the line with someone he knows well, and that could be Santos or Lopez, and that's OK with me.

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Posted on: June 10, 2011 2:48 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 3:31 pm

Venters, Kimbrel on pace for huge workload

By Matt Snyder

This just in: Jonny Venters is a stud. With a 0.47 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings, he's been the most dominant reliever in baseball during the still-young 2011 season.

Craig Kimbrel isn't far behind. He's got 18 saves and has struck out 47 in 31 innings. He's suffered a few hiccups, unlike Venters, but has shown that he can dominate.

It's just that the workload of the youngsters might be a bit much at this point in their respective careers.

Venters has appeared in 35 games. He's on pace for 92 appearances and 102 2/3 innings. Kimbrel has appeared in 32 games and is on pace for 84 games and 82 innings.

Last season, only five relievers logged 80-plus innings, including Venters (83). Matt Belisle of the Rockies was at the top with 92. Only six pitchers threw in at least 80 games and only one more than 85. That pitcher? Pedro Feliciano, who will not throw in the 2011 season due to a significant arm injury.

And here's the kicker: There was not a single pitcher in baseball last season who had more than 80 innings and 80 games. Both Venters and Kimbrel are on pace to do so this year, and Venters is on pace to amass a workload we haven't seen given to a short reliever since Scott Proctor in 2006. Proctor hasn't been the same since, because of injuries and alcoholism. Under the circumstances, it's possible the high workload didn't cause injury, but we can't really be sure it didn't, either.

The point is that Venters and Kimbrel are being used almost excessively by Fredi Gonzalez. Kimbrel's probably OK where he is, but should still be monitored. There's enough past evidence to be wary of the path Venters is headed down, though. He's only 26 and should team with Kimbrel to scare the rest of the NL for years to come.

It's not like the Braves don't have options. Eric O'Flaherty has a 1.52 ERA and has been solid. Of course, he's also logged 29 2/3 innings. What about George Sherrill? The former All-Star has only worked 15 1/3 innings and has a 2.35 ERA. Scott Linebrink and even Proctor could be trusted in a few fill-in spots as well.

I'm not advocating a drastic pull back for Venters and Kimbrel. They're young and strong enough to handle 75-80 innings pitched. It's when they get up into the 90-range -- and then possibly being heavily leaned upon in the playoffs -- that could become a serious problem.

You don't want to baby pitchers, but that doesn't mean you should run them into the ground, either. Considering the Braves are likely to be in the race all season and find themselves in lots of close games, it would behoove them to start spacing out the use of the young dynamic duo -- especially Venters.

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Posted on: May 13, 2011 10:26 am

Pepper: Rivalry weekend in MLB

By Matt Snyder

BASEBALL TODAY: Excited about rivals getting together? Danny Knobler joins Adam Aizer to look at some exciting matchups as the weekend approaches. Watch the video above.

FOUR INNINGS FOR WEBB: Brandon Webb made another start in extended spring training Thursday and pitched four innings. The big issue thus far in his rehab progress has been velocity, specifically a lack thereof. Thursday he reportedly averaged around 84 m.p.h. and topped out at 86. That's still pretty bad for someone who wants to be an effective major-league pitcher -- unless he plans on being a great knuckleballer -- but it is an improvement from what we've heard over the course of the past month, when he was sitting high-70s and low-80s. Considering he's still pain-free, maybe some progress is being made. (ESPN Dallas)

SQUEEZED: Based upon data from PitchFX, BaseballAnalytics.org checked out which pitchers have had the fewest percentage of called strikes within what is supposed to be the strike zone. It's pretty interesting, because one of the biggest problems with the strike zone is how many of the umpires seem to have their own interpretation. Topping the list of the people who have been the most squeezed is Nelson Figueroa. As the site pointed out, if we had robot umpires, maybe he'd still be pitching for Houston instead of Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Cardinals BULLPEN SORTED OUT: Since removing Ryan Franklin from the role, the Cardinals had not really named a closer, but it's a pretty foregone conclusion at this point that young Eduardo Sanchez is the closer, as he's saved four games in four chances. Hard-throwing right-hander Jason Motte is their put-out-the-fire guy. "Last year he was very successful doing that, coming in in the middle of an inning and pitching out of it," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "You have to kind of remember what he did there. Because there is a need for a guy like that." (MLB.com)

WHAT ABOUT THE Braves? After Craig Kimbrel went out and blew his third save of the young season Wednesday night, a Braves beat writer (AJC.com) brought up the subject of having Jonny Venters be the closer -- or at least be part of a committee with Kimbrel. He makes a good piont that Kimbrel is the long-term closer and has elite-closer stuff, but that Venters has been so dominant and the Braves are trying to win now. So it's a conundrum. It wasn't a save situation, but Kimbrel's outing Thursday night should stave off any temporary concerns for the time being. He struck out all three batters he faced in a tie game and ended up getting a win.

BUMPED: This is at least mildly humorous. The Mets were forced to stay an extra night in Colorado due to a rainout (I'm sure Carlos Beltran is now fine with the decision), but they had to relocate to a new hotel because they were bumped ... by the Padres, who face the Rockies in a weekend series starting Friday and arrived a day early. It really does seem like the weirdest stuff always happens to the Mets, whether it's due to self-sabotage or uncontrollable outside factors. (ESPN New York)

WALK-OFF WALKS: The boys over at Big League Stew have put together a compilation of everything you've ever wanted to know about walk-off walks. For example, did you know two pitchers issued four walk-off walks in their respective careers? Hall of Famer Goose Gossage did it three times. As for hitters, Jorge Posada is the active leader with three career walk-off walks. I better stop now, lest I reach my allotment of saying "walk-off walk" for the entire season in one paragraph.

GREAT SKIPPERS: ESPN.com's Sweetspot blog ranked the top 10 managers of all-time. The highest active manager (well, the only one) on the list was Tony La Russa, who checked in at sixth. Interestingly, Joe Torre was eighth while Bobby Cox was third, rankings sure to draw the ire of the people who put a good amount more stock on the postseason than the regular season.

WORST HAT EVER: Jim Caple of ESPN.com offers up his pick for the worst cap in major-league history -- the Seattle Pilots' 1969 monstrosity -- and he'll certainly get no argument from me. Man, that thing is awful.

CASHMAN'S CONTRACT: While everyone is concentrating on CC Sabathia's contract situation at the conclusion of this season, when it comes to the Yankees, there is another contract negotiation that will occur. General manager Brian Cashman's deal is going to expire after the season. Though both Sabathia and Cashman figure to stay put, the always-thoughtful River Blues Avenue opines that the Cashman negotiations will be "messier," most notably because ownership went over his head in the Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano signings.

ANOTHER SLOW START: Adam LaRoche has been pretty terrible for the Nationals thus far, but he's trying not to worry about it from an individual perspective. There's a good reason for that, as he's been there, done that. “I wouldn’t say I’m stressing over it, because I’ve been there so many times in my career,” LaRoche said (Washington Times). “But the frustrating part is not what the average is, it’s the fact that you look back and think, ‘Man if I’d have been doing a little more, we may have won two or three extra games.’” Not only does LaRoche have several awful starts under his belt, but he's one of the most drastically streaky hitters in baseball. He'll get hot. And then he'll go stone cold again. It's a cycle with LaRoche.

HUMBLED STAR: Andrew McCutchen was benched Thursday night for not running to first on a dropped third strike the previous night. It was a good move by manager Clint Hurdle to make sure it didn't become a recurring problem, and it doesn't appear it will. "I know that's not the type of person I am," McCutchen said on Thursday. "I let my emotions get the best of me. I took it out on my bat and myself when I shouldn't have been mad. I was just frustrated at the time and not focused on the game, not focused that the ball was in the dirt with two strikes and I needed to run to first." (MLB.com) I feel like it's important to note that McCutchen is generally a hustler and this shouldn't be discussed any further. He's a good guy and a good player who made a mistake. End of story.

NO RETIREMENT: Dodgers relief pitcher Hong Chih-Kuo is one of the better relievers in the game when he's mentally right. It's just that he seems to suffer from the yips on occasion. He's currently on the disabled list with anxiety disorder as the Dodgers have reported he's too scared to take the mound right now. Kuo's agent did say Thursday that there are no plans to retire, though, and he's going to battle his way back. It's one of Kuo's traits, actually, as he's had four surgeries, including Tommy John surgery twice. He always comes back, so this time won't be any different. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:25 am

Braves sport best back-end bullpen in bigs

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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com