Thus far in the Atlanta Braves 10 for 10’s player series, we have covered the infield, the outfield, and the best of the worst. Today, we look at the 2010’s best of the Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers.
10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitcher, Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel was the dominant Atlanta Braves relief pitcher of the decade by either total career or single season measure, and probably the most dominant relief pitcher in Major League Baseball during the decade. In Kimbrel’s 5 seasons in Atlanta he led Braves relievers with 186 saves, 289 innings pitched, and 12.0 bWAR. Among Braves relievers with 50+ innings pitched, he also led with a 14.82 K/9 rate, 1.52 FIP, and tied with Billy Wagner‘s 1.43 ERA.
As far as single season efforts go, he has the Braves 4 highest single season save totals of the decade, as well as the 4 lowest FIP’s. In 2012, he posted a 1.01 ERA, 0.654 WHIP, 0.78 FIP, added 42 saves, and struck out 116 in 62 2/3 innings, or 16. 7 per 9 innings. In 2013 he posted a Braves decade high 50 saves.
He led MLB with 346 saves for the decade, dusting Kenley Jansen‘s 301, and put up a 2.08 ERA.
And if you need fuel to add to the fire in 2020, here are some Phillies fans taunting our boy.
10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers, Leaders
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10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers, O’Vent
Intertwined with Kimbrel in Braves lore are the other 2/3rds of the monster they called “O’Ventbrel.” Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters are second or third in innings pitched and bWAR among Braves relievers for the decade. Venters put up 1.95, 1.84, and 3.22 ERA’s over the 2010 – 2012 seasons.
O’Flaherty added 2.45, 0.98, and 1.73 ERA’s over the same period, and added a 2.50 in 19 2013 games. O’Flaherty’s 3.3 bWAR in 2011 was the highest single season of any Braves reliever of the decade (although compared to Kimbrel’s seasons, it calls into question the calculation’s precision for relievers ).
Both pitchers left the Braves after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2013, and both returned to the Braves at the end of their careers, with limited success.
10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers, Billy Wagner
Billy Wagner only pitched 1 season for the Braves, but what a season 2010 was. The 38 year old racked up 37 saves, struck out 104 in 69 1/3 innings, put up a 1.43 ERA and a 0.865 WHIP, and then rode off into the sunset. The 37 saves included his career 400th; the final total equaling 422. Speaking of final, here’s the final save of his career.
10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers, Others
Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino had respectively, 51 and 50 saves, 168 and 189 innings pitched, 1.299 and 1.278 WHIP’s, and 3.67 and 2.95 ERA’s. Luis Avilan pitched 182 innings with a 2.77 ERA, David Carpenter threw 127 innings with a 2.63 ERA, and either was probably as good as either Vizcaino or Johnson. Kris Medlen threw 83 innings in relief, but had most of his success as a starter. Jason Grilli picked up 24 saves in 2015, despite pitching in only 36 games.
In the O’Ventbrel era, the game was essentially over if the Braves led after 6 innings. There was significant drop-off in the bullpen depth after that era, as you can see, but no accompanying change in bullpen strategy.
* 80% of games pitched in relief.
Thanks for reading the 10 for 10’s Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers. If you enjoyed this, feel free to check out our piece on 2019’s closer Mark Melancon.