By rule, all Major League teams must have at least two lefthanded relievers. If they can’t find two lefthanded relievers, too bad, they have to find someone who throws lefthanded anyway. Okay, that’s not actually true, but it seems that way. That explains, for example, the Braves giving a major league contract to a guy who had a 4.62 ERA last year. Or why the Oakland A’s, who had a tremendous pitching staff, kept running out Venafro and various other lefties who were even worse.

The number of pitchers who really are worth keeping around just to get lefthanded hitters out is pretty low. Ray King might be one, but he might be able to do more. There are a few others. But generally, keeping a pitcher around to throw to two or three hitters is a waste of time and a roster spot.

Venafro? Well, he stunk it up last year to the tune of hitters teeing off for .308/.363/.473 against him. He managed to be almost decent against lefties (.270/.356/.381) but your average righthanded hitter destroyed him (.337/.368/.542). Even if you buy into the LOOGY myth, a guy whose entire reason for being is getting lefthanded hitters out and they still hit .270 with a .356 OBP off of him… Why would you want this?

Other reasons to question Scheurholz’s (or Wren’s, if it’s his doing) sanity… Venafro pitched 37 innings last year and only had 16 strikeouts. His ERA is deceptive — deceptively low because he allowed three unearned runs, as well as being bailed out by his bullpen mates. Add in the unearned runs and his “run average” is 5.35. And since he’s a bad defensive player (King and Hernandez are, too, odd for a team whose pitchers pride themselves on defense) there’s a good chance those unearned runs are wholly his fault. So you have a guy who pitched badly, doesn’t strike anyone out, has shaky control (14 walks) and you don’t normally use him for more than two or three batters. That’s a fine use of a roster spot… I’m not saying that you don’t bring Venafro in, but if he wouldn’t sign a minor league deal and try to work his way onto the roster, I don’t think he’s worth it.

Mike Venafro Statistics –