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Small Sample Size Musings: Venters & Kimbrel
Posted By Mike Axisa On April 1, 2011 @ 1:15 pm In Closers | 7 Comments
A few weeks ago in Spring Training, new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that he planned to use lefty Jonny Venters and righty Craig Kimbrel as co-closers at the start of the year, basing their usage on matchups. It’s a great plan; a manager deserves to be applauded for not marrying himself to one set ninth inning guy and instead optimizing his bullpen, even if it creates headaches for us fantasy players. Yet when the time came yesterday, here’s how Fredi played his cards with two-run lead…
Eighth inning, Venters brought in to face…
Ninth inning, Kimbrel brought in to face…
I used the last three years worth of data for the most part, but last season was the first extended big league action for both Morse and Desmond (at least in recent years for the former), so I just went with the one year. We don’t need to be too precise here anyway, the data is intended more FYI than to be definitive.
Outside of Kimbrel facing Morse, each matchup was backwards. It didn’t really matter because the two relievers combined to retire all six men they faced, but the process differed from what Gonzalez indicated. Perhaps he wanted Venters’ extreme ground ball ways (68.4% grounders last year) out there against the top of the order in an effort to keep them in the park, that’s certainly possible. And it is just one game, so we have to try to not make too big of a deal out of it, but yesterday’s pen usage was certainly interesting (and effective), if nothing else.
Once Billy Wagner got hurt in the NLDS last year, Kimbrel stepped in as the de facto ninth inning guy. Most of us expected him to be the closer coming into the season after that (plus, you know, his gaudy numbers), and although Gonzalez’s comments threw a wrench into the works early on, it sure seems like the righty will be the closer going forward. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nope, not at all.
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