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Jonny Venters Is Grounded

Sometimes you come across a player that is putting up such ridiculous numbers that you just want to share him with others. “Hey, check out so and so,” you text or tell to the friends that you have that you know would appreciate immediately the incredibility of that person’s stats. I had that happen when I came across Glenn Abbott’s 1979 season wherein he struck out fewer than 5% of batters he faced that year. It was made even funnier that Abbott was the Mariners’ Opening Day starter that year.

The stat lines do not have to be predictive or even really relevant to how we analyze baseball these days. As Dave mentioned after Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter, sometimes amazing is just amazing, even if the actual credit doesn’t belong with the player who gets it. I just had another one of those moments when browsing through Atlanta’s bullpen.

I already am well aware of the strikeout fiend that is Craig Kimbrel and I knew about Jonny Venters’ excellent season last year, but I had yet to really look at the Braves pen so far into 2011 and wow has Venters taken it to another level. Marc Hulet touched on Venters a few days ago as part of the amazing duo he has formed with Kimbrel, but I don’t think he did enough justice to Venters’ insane batted ball profile so far in 2011. Including today’s game, hitters have put 37 balls in play against Venters this season and 34 (32 grounders plus two bunts) of them have been on the ground.

That would be incredible by itself, but Venters accomplishes that in combination with his superb strikeout and walk rates from last season. It adds up to an FIP and xFIP below 2 and a tERA below 1. Venters had baseball’s highest qualified ground ball rate last year when he posted a 68.4% mark, barely besting teammate Peter Moylan by six-tenths of a point. In fact, only Blaine Boyer prevented the Braves from holding the top three spots in grounder rate as Tim Hudson came in fourth. Venters so far seems determined to not be so close this time around.