Came out of nowhere last year to anchor the Braves’ bullpen, leading the team with 83 innings pitched in relief, second with 79 appearances (sixth in the league), and finished eighth in the rookie of the year voting. Not bad for a non-prospect who didn’t make the team out of spring training. He made a couple of appearances in the suburbs before being called up after Jo-Jo Reyes‘ latest (and last for the Braves) implosion, and pretty soon was the reliever you wanted on the spot when things got hairy. Throwing a heavy fastball with velocity, he combined getting lots of ground balls (more than twice as many ground balls than fly balls) with lots of strikeouts (10.1 per nine).
Unsurprisingly considering past events, Bobby used Venters a lot, and eventually he broke down a bit. “Everyday Jonny” didn’t start pitching badly, but he wasn’t nearly as dominant the last couple of months of the season as he was early on. His ERA for the season was 1.95, but that’s fluky, caused by an unusual number of runs being scored as unearned (12 of his 30 allowed) so his “run average” was over three. If you’re a ground-ball pitcher with a weak infield defense behind you, these things are likely to happen.
Venters allowed only one homer all season, and got eleven GIDP, both impressive marks. His biggest problem was an occasional batch of control difficulties, not surprising in a pitcher throwing much harder than he had before. (The reasons for that are probably a combination of a full-time switch to the bullpen from starting and some mechanical adjustments.) Had 24 holds, and I don’t know if that’s a good total or not. (Checking… it was fourth in the league behind two Padres and LOOGY of LOOGYs Arthur Rhodes.) Also had one save, four “blown” saves (meaning blown holds) and pitched a lot (about a third of the time) in high-leverage situations. That would make you think he’d be a good closer candidate, but the Braves had other ideas. He may close occasionally depending upon the matchups; for instance, if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are due up in the ninth.