Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers: Best of the 10 for 10’s

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

Craig Kimbrel186
Jim Johnson51
Arodys Vizcaino50
Billy Wagner37
Jason Grilli26
Craig Kimbrel289
Jonny Venters255
Eric O’Flaherty240
Arodys Vizcaino189
Luis Avilan182
NAMEERA (50+ innings)
Craig Kimbrel1.43
Billy Wagner1.43
Jonny Venters2.62
David Carpenter2.63
Luis Avilan2.77
Eric O’Flaherty2.77
Craig Kimbrel12.0
Eric O’Flaherty4.7
Jonny Venters3.9
Arodys Vizcaino3.6
Luis Avilan3.4

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.

One of the nastiest pitches in Braves history

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.

Long Live Braves Journal

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

27 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Relief Pitchers: Best of the 10 for 10’s”

  1. I think the Twinkies did the best here in giving up a guy with serious reliever risk for 4 years of Maeda at a really good price ($3.125M/year). while he has appeared to be made of glass during his Dodger career, some, or even most, of this is due to their managing of their 9-man rotation and fake injuries.

    Boston got under the tax threshold but is paying a lot of dead money and didn’t get enough back. Verdugo might blossom into a star but is more likely to settle into a good 3-4 win player. Is that better than a year of Mookie at $27M?. I don’t know!

    The Dodgers as a team were already getting 15 wins out of their outfield, so how much of a boost is this for them? Meanwhile, should Price actually be done due to the injuries, they may well find themselves short on starting pitching!

  2. Yeah, I was really impressed by the way the Twins quietly shored up their pitching, as the starting rotation was their biggest question mark. They’re going to be really tough in that division, and I think Cleveland is going to have a hard time postponing the inevitable on trading Lindor for whatever they can get for him.

    I have to take my hat off to L.A., though. They’ve finished in first place seven years in a row, and they lost two straight World Series in ’17 and ’18. So rather than sitting on their thumbs, they decided to get the second-best player in baseball. Clearly there are no guarantees, but I love the fact that they pushed their chips into the middle to try to win it all.

  3. I said it on the last thread, but analyzing the trade, the Dodgers kinda broke even adding wins by subtracting Maeda, Verdugo, and Joc, and adding Mookie and Price. Where that argument is skewed is that the Dodgers consolidated those 3 talents in one player, and Price is the bonus fry. The add-on argument is that it’s naive to think that the Dodgers don’t have players to replace Maeda, Verdugo, and Joc in terms of value.

    The Dodgers got better.

  4. I’m sorry but anyone who thinks the Dodgers broke even is insane. They got an MVP caliber player for their outfield to go with checks notes their other reigning MVP outfielder.

    Did you read the list of player by first 6 season WAR? Here goes:

    1 Ted Williams
    2 Mike Trout
    3 Albert Pujols
    4 Jackie Robinson
    5 Wade Boggs
    6 Joe DiMaggio
    7 Mookie Betts ***
    8 Mickey Mantle
    9 Barry Bonds
    10 Willie Mays

    I mean, you can argue that LA may regret this deal in the long run, but they had a glut of pitching so Maeda will be easily replaced if not surpassed. For 2020 they just sealed prohibitive NL favorite status.

  5. Dodgers got Betts, but we got Yonder Alonso! If he stays on the mlb Braves roster for more than 30 days we are in serious trouble

  6. Maeda’s salary is only $3.25M, but because of “inconsistencies” in his medically, he has incentives out the butt that push his salary close to $9M if he makes 25 starts or so.

  7. I’m not saying the bums did bad here, I’m pointing out that I think Minnesota did best in the trade and the Dodgers did very well assuming their pitching holds up which I happen to believe is not a certainty. Additionally, the marginal upgrade to Mookie is smaller for the Dodgers than any other team in baseball given how productive their outfield already was. I think the Sawx got hosed because the kid from Minnesota is going to need to be an above average starter as a median outcome for them to break even and tying a dead asset like Price to a superstar is always a bad idea.

    Now, just in isolation: Twins get Kenta Maeda and give up Graterol. For them this is a 1 for 1 swap. Maeda is a known quantity projected for 2.6 WAR per 150 innings on a $3.125M/yr contract for 4 years. Even docking Maeda for aging this looks to be north of $60M in surplus value. How in h*ll can a kid with 9 innings MLB experience and only 67 innings above A ball be worth that?

  8. @4 Ryan, you may be correct, and, you’re very right that the Dodgers consolidated performance into fewer roster spots. I would be happier if the Braves would do some of that. However, I do not want to throw a lot of the future away for one year of Betts. Honestly, I don’t care that the 90’s Braves one only one WS; they were in the playoffs every year and the WS in several years. I’d rather have a winning team every year than doing a “Florida” (i.e. worst-to-first-to-worst). If the playoffs really are a crapshoot then the Dodgers really didn’t gain anything because they were going to the playoffs anyway.

    The approach AA has been using re: Donaldson and Ozuna is bringing in one year upgrades (just as Betts is a one year upgrade) that don’t cost anything but money. One thing you’re postulating is that the Dodgers are deeper than most other teams (and in a lot of ways they are), but that’s not gonna be true forever especially if they keep making these wild short term deals (think Doyle Alexander, right?). If I were a Dodger fan, I might like it now but I’m gonna hate it next year.

    One side note to my thoughts….. if the Dodgers go all in to actually sign Betts long term then my whole logic falls apart so there may be some thinking along those lines. If they can sign Betts long term then this is a great deal for the Dodgers.

  9. 7 – No it was directed at comments from the prior thread mostly, though I think most everyone here is underselling how much better the Dodgers just got.

    10 – I actually happen to agree that the one real hope is that the Dodgers, while they have a lot of arms, won’t have unbeatable postseason arms, so maybe there’s an opening there. There is some uncertainty in a lot of those arms. I don’t doubt that they will find the 5-7 guys to help them run away with the division (and not miss Maeda). I do doubt that their 1-3 or 1-4 will be significantly better than ATL.

  10. The biggest downside of consolidating wins into 1 player rather than several is the injury risk.

  11. Going for it is getting Mookie and Price.

    Trying to sell tickets is getting Ozuna and talking about how much money was saved.

  12. Honestly, I don’t care that the 90’s Braves one only one WS

    Wait – Roger, really? I care that they only won a single World Series and I wish they won more! I never want the front office to stop trying to make the team better. Over the last couple of years the Dodgers have demonstrated that it’s possible to have a highly successful expensive major league team as well as a highly productive farm system. So they’re cashing in some of their excess depth, and money, to improve their chances of winning it all. If I were a Dodger fan I’d be happy as hell, and if I were a Boston fan I’d be despondent. Where do they get off crying poverty and throwing in the towel before the season begins?

  13. Honestly, great for Los Angeles. But man, Boston, what the heck are you doing? I agree Alex; I’d be very upset with Boston that they basically punted on a season because of… money, something they print at Fenway.

  14. Boston trading away Betts to dump payroll is like Georgia no longer dropping bags for recruits. #ImSalty

  15. From a Yankee perspective…

    Jonathan F

    Don’t miss the notation off the right hand side of the page above concerning startling information re the formulation and working of quadratic equations. Not so new it turns out – when can we expect these to become a regular feature of your future pieces? Note they must be presented in two separate segments, beginning and end. In that order. Cheers

  16. @17 Maybe I phrased it poorly… Of course, I “care” that they only won one WS. What I was trying to say is that I’m happier that they were long term winners with a stable core rather than a team like the 90’s Marlins that “bought” one WS and were terrible every other year. I’d rather get to the playoffs and lose most years rather than winning once and being on the bottom the rest of the time.

    That’s what the 80’s Braves were like. They had one bright shining year (and got screwed by the Cardinals and the weather) and they pretty much sucked the rest of the decade. I would so much prefer a replay of the 90s. Hopefully, with a little better luck in the crapshoot.

    I don’t think Betts is a good deal unless you can sign him and make him a core player for several years. Plus, is he a 10 WAR player or a 6 WAR player? Not sure we really know. Obviously, if you get 10 WAR out of him then the price was right. It just seems to me that the Dodgers dealt away several years of 6 WAR production from Verdugo and Joc for a floor of 6 WAR from Mookie and the hope of 10 WAR for only one year. And winning the playoffs couldn’t be part of the calculus as the playoffs are a crapshoot.

  17. @17 Seems to me like the Dodgers are playing the same gamble they did when they brought in Machado for a third of a season. That didn’t get them to a championship either. Bringing in guys like Donaldson or Ozuna on a one year deal that only costs money is essentially like a stop/loss. If they do well, you may want to sign them long term. If they don’t; go back to the drawing board and start again and you still have your entire roster and farm to go from.

  18. @23
    Except the Braves are to the point where they’ll have to release and/or panic trade some young players because there’s no room for additions. I think there’s a fine line between the two strategies but I’ll admit, I’ll be hacked off if Braves lose quality guys to DFA.

    Also, there are reasons Ozuna and Donaldson went for 1 year…they’re risky.

  19. @21: I thought I was already providing a way to see ancient wisdom repackaged.

    @12-14 This, taken to extremes, is a really interesting question. Are your chances of winning a game better when you start nine 2-WAR players vs two 9-WAR players and seven 0 WAR players? I think the intuition is a preference for balance, but the data suggests it doesn’t make a lot of difference. Of course no one is, in truth, a 9 WAR player without at least some competence around him. This is a little like the question: what is the maximum possible home runs a player could hit in a season? At some point, it’s clearly better just to walk a player than let him hit no matter who is behind him. Bonds got, I suspect, more than halfway to the maximum.

  20. Another way to think of it is this:

    The Dodgers took Verdugo, a 3-win player, and Pederson, a 3-win player, and Maeda, a 3-win player, and turned them into Betts, a 7-win player.

    But it’s a lot easier to find and replace a 3-win player than it is to obtain a 7-win player. Indeed, they got rid of Pederson because they barely had enough at-bats for him as it was. (I essentially think of him as their Ryan Klesko, and I’m including him here because it’s clear that the Joc trade was chain-linked to the Betts trade.)

    Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, I don’t think that makes the trade a washout – they dealt from strength to get the literal second-best player in the sport for a full year, and no one they got rid of is someone irreplaceable. That’s the definition of acceptable risk.

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