After allowing five runs in his last five innings, Jonny Venters currently has an ERA over a run higher than his first two seasons. At 3.29, no one should really be concerned, but the MLB Network decided they needed a 2-3 minute segment talking about his “struggles.” Looking deeper into the stats (who would have thought I would do that?), Venters may actually be pitching better than ever.
This improvement is evident in his FIP and SIERA. After having FIPs around 2.70 and SIERAs around 2.60 the last two seasons, he sits at an 2.23 FIP and 1.96 SIERA. Only Craig Kimbrel boasts better rates on the team. So, what is fueling such a difference in ERA and FIP? He has allowed a .471 BABIP and 30% of all batted balls have been line drives, each of those figures double of what they were last year.
As far as his individual skills, his control has remained static, walking or hitting about 10% of batters faced. His K-rate has increased from 26% to 34%, possibly due to his increased usage of his slider and the introduction of his changeup. Both of those pitches have whiff percentages above 30%, while his sinker has gone from 12% whiffs to 6%. The lack of whiffs on the sinker is also a sign of less groundballs, getting 50% GBs this year after 80% last year. Hitters are probably realizing that if the ball starts below the waist, it’s going to be at the knees or lower.
Overall, I like what Venters is doing so far. The development of his changeup will be helpful with right-handed bats. The sinker is moving nearly as much as it was last year, so he will have to make the adjustment of throwing the ball at the bottom of the zone instead of below the zone. As long as he keeps his walks under control, Venters will do just fine.