Now that we’ve passed the midway point of the season I thought it would be interesting to examine reliever workloads to see which pitchers have been ridden the hardest in the first half.
Atlanta’s late-inning duo of lefty setup man Jonny Venters and righty closer Craig Kimbrel has been incredibly dominant, combining for 2.01 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 85 innings while holding opponents to a .180 batting average.
However, manager Fredi Gonzalez has leaned on them a total of 91 times in 86 games, as Venters leads all of baseball in appearances with 47 and Kimbrel ranks second with 44.
Here’s the appearances leaderboard:
Jonny Venters 47 Braves Craig Kimbrel 44 Braves Bill Bray 43 Reds Kameron Loe 43 Brewers Jeremy Affeldt 42 Giants Nick Masset 41 Reds Chris Resop 41 Pirates Eric O'Flaherty 41 Braves Javier Lopez 41 Giants Jose Veras 41 Pirates
You’ll notice a third Braves reliever, Eric O’Flaherty, also cracks the top 10, but as a left-handed specialist his overall workload hasn’t been as huge as the appearance count suggests. O’Flaherty has logged a total of 39 innings in his 41 appearances, whereas Venters has thrown 52 innings and Kimbrel has thrown 43.
Here’s the relief innings leaderboard:
Jonny Venters 52 Braves Jim Johnson 49 Orioles Jeff Samardzija 46 Cubs Tyler Clippard 46 Nationals David Pauley 45 Mariners Craig Kimbrel 43 Braves Nick Masset 43 Reds Drew Storen 42 Nationals Daniel McCutchen 42 Pirates Brian Sanches 42 Marlins
Venters leads baseball in relief innings in addition to relief appearances, and Kimbrel and Nick Masset of the Reds are the only other pitchers to crack the top 10 in both categories. Atlanta wouldn’t be leading the Wild Card race at 50-36 without riding Venters and Kimbrel so hard in the first half, but will that catch up to the Braves in the second half?
Right now Venters is on pace to throw 98 innings in 89 appearances, which is a combination no reliever has topped in 25 years. Kimbrel is on pace for 81 innings in 83 appearances, which puts the Braves on track to become just the seventh team in baseball history to have two relievers with 80-plus innings and 80-plus appearances in the same season.