About a month ago, Matthew Carruth wrote about Jonny Venters and his unbelievable batted ball profile. At the time (May 6th), Venters had allowed 37 balls in play. Of those 37, a remarkable 34 of them (91.8%) were ground balls. Obviously, Venters couldn’t keep up that kind of pace, right?
Well, yes. You’re right. But it’s hard to be too disappointed with his results in the month since then. Venters’s overall ground ball rate through the first two months and change, in which he’s allowed 81 balls in play in his 37.2 innings pitched, checks in at 80.2%. Yes, he’s slipped a little bit — he allowed another 13 non-grounders from May 6th to June 8th — but I think he can be forgiven for that.
The month of May was his second straight month eclipsing his fantastic 68.4% ground ball rate from last season, inducing grounders on 77.3% of batted balls. Last season, as Matthew mentioned, Venters’s rate led the league by a few tenths of a point. This season, his rate leads the next closest, Mark Rzepczynski, by a robust 12.1 percentage points.
It’s unclear if the 26-year-old Venters can keep things up at quite this rate, but I wouldn’t bet on him losing his effectiveness any time soon. Venters is one of the best in the league at combining a strong ground ball pitch with strikeouts (9.3 per nine innings) and control (2.6 walks per nine innings). As such, not only does his 0.48 ERA lead the league, but his 1.98 FIP does as well.
Remarkably, MLB.com only has three videos of Venters in action this season, and somehow two of them involve fly ball outs. Here’s the one video of Venters actually inducing a ground ball, using his sinker to get Steve Pearce of Pittsburgh to ground into a 5-2-3 double play.
With that pitch in his arsenal, I don’t think it’s outlandish to imagine Venters continually posting ground ball rates at or above 70%, at least for the rest of this season.