Pat Venditte Gives A’s Bullpen a Hand (or Two) (and other notes from 6/5/15)

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Switch hitting has been a prevalent part of the game for decades because generally speaking, hitters do better against opposite-handed pitching than they do against same-handed pitching as I have outlined in “Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Using Platoons to Your Advantage.”  The idea behind it all is that hitters just tend to see the ball better out of opposite-handed pitching and have an easier time dealing with breaking balls that break toward them instead of away from them.

Many ball players will practice and develop the ability to hit from both sides of the plate when they are young as a way to gain this slight advantage, but it certainly is tough to master.  When I was in Little League, I would head to the batting cages before all my games to warm up and I would practice switch hitting just for fun.  As a natural righty, I would flip over and hit lefty in the cages sometimes and while I could consistently make contact with the ball, the same type of power was just not there.  So I think it is an impressive feat for any player that is a switch hitter and can hit equally for average and power from both sides of the plate.

But what about pitching with both hands?  If having the ability to hit both right-handed and left-handed gives an advantage for hitters, then wouldn’t the same be true for a pitcher who can throw with both hands?  A pitcher with this ability could pitch right-handed to all right-handed batters and pitch left-handed to all left-handed batters to obtain an advantage much in the same way that switch hitting does.  For me, trying to switch hit is hard enough, so I can’t imagine trying to switch pitch.  Heck, I can’t even brush my teeth left-handed let alone throw a baseball with the same type of accuracy and force that I do with my right hand.  But there is a pitcher in the Oakland A’s organization named Pat Venditte who was just called up to the Majors for the first time in his career, and you guessed it, he is a switch pitcher — the first of his kind to appear in the Majors since 1995.

The soon to be 30-year old Venditte was originally drafted by the Yankees and spent 7 years in their Minor League system before catching on with the Oakland organization for the 2015 season.  Venditte has been a relief pitcher for basically the entirety of his Minor League career (250 relief appearances in 259 total games pitched) and he has done pretty well with a career 2.37 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 9.99 K/9.  With numbers like that and the ability to switch pitch, it is a bit of a wonder why it has taken so long for him to receive a promotion to the bigs.  Not only does he switch pitch, but he also does it with a sidearm motion from both sides, giving him even more novelty.

Venditte made his Major League debut right upon his call up on Friday against the Red Sox and he pitched two scoreless innings allowing just one hit while also striking out one batter.  He’s going to work in middle relief for the A’s, but one has to wonder if he could ever work his way into the closer’s role.  He gained experience as a closer in his first two seasons in the Minors, but he has only recorded one save in the last 4+ seasons.  And because of his soft tossing ways (sitting around 85 MPH on his fastball), he does not profile as a typical closer.  However, Billy Beane and the A’s are known to be revolutionary in utilizing uncommon approaches to maximize the most out of the players on their roster.  And with last year’s closer Sean Doolittle back on the DL with his shoulder injury and severely diminished velocity, and fill-in closer Tyler Clippard likely to be shopped around since he is in the last year of his contract on a last place team, it wouldn’t be too crazy to think that Venditte could be closing out games for the A’s this season at some point if he shows success in a middle relief role first.

This is mostly just speculation on my part as I think it would be amazing to see a switch pitcher succeed and ascend to a more prolific role, so I wouldn’t put too much value into it.  It will be entertaining to watch and interesting to see what he can do.  If he ever does become a Major League closer, I will give him a hand, but it’s not like he needs one.

Let’s check out what else happened on Friday!

Danny Espinosa – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  With Anthony Rendon back from the DL, it would have seemed to have pushed Espinosa back to a bench role, but Yunel Escobar suffered an injury that might land him on the DL now.  So Espinosa could still remain in the starting lineup, and if he does then he should still continue to flash his power versus left-handed pitching like he did on Friday.  He now has 7 HR on the season and has shown huge improvements in both his walk and strikeout rates.  If you’re desperate for power at the middle infield spots, then Espinosa is worth a look while he still has a hold on a starting lineup spot.

Anthony Rizzo – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Big game for A to the Rizzo, and he also was robbed of another extra base hit by a Denard Span leaping grab in left-center field.  He now is hitting .325 with 11 HR, 34 RBI, 31 R, and 10 SB while walking more than striking out.  I drool.

Tsuyoshi Wada – 3.2 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the L.  After three pretty decent starts to begin his 2015 season, Wada got pushed around for 9 hits in a pretty ugly outing.  He’s worth a look in deep leagues, but don’t expect too much.

Jered Weaver – 5.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K with the L.  And this is why I said a few weeks ago that I don’t expect Weaver to finish the season with an ERA below 4.00.  With his diminished velocity and fly ball tendencies, Yankee Stadium is a very poor place for Weaver to pitch and he allowed 3 long balls in this one to push his ERA back up to 4.60.  With the severe lack of strikeouts because of only averaging 84 MPH with his “heater,” Weaver can only be trusted in pitcher’s parks against right-handed heavy lineups.

Alex Rodriguez – 4 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  We knew that A-Rod was showing off his power with 11 HR this year, but now he’s got his AVG up to .284 after a 4-hit day on Friday.  He’s paying off big for anyone who took a chance on him/endorses PED use.

Mark Teixeira – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  That’s Teixeira’s 17th HR of the season.  Check out “Tex Marks the Spot” for more information on why I believe in this bounce back performance.

Stephen Drew – 2 for 4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R.  Somewhat surprising is that Drew now has 7 HR on the season.  Not surprising though is his putrid .173 AVG.  But as I alluded to earlier, Jered Weaver can make any left-handed hitter look like Babe Ruth.

Maikel Franco – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Franco now has 5 HR on the season and he is exceeding my expecations that I had for him in the power department.  In AAA last year, he had a bit of a down season and hit just .257 with 16 HR.  But in 2013 between high-A and AA, he did hit .320 with 31 HR.  So perhaps I have underestimated him a bit.  I still don’t expect him to hit for that great of AVG though this year (next year may be a different story though), but at least the power is looking good.

Jose Reyes – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  This was Reyes’ first HR of the season and all his skills have diminished this season.  Everything from his power to his speed to his walk and strikeout rates.  He still hits atop a lethal lineup though, so he still does have value.  But the glory days appear to be well behind him, and who knows when he is going to hit the DL next.  It could be next week.

Chris Colabello – 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Colabello just isn’t slowing down like I thought he would as he is now riding a 15-game hitting streak.  Overall, he has a .366 AVG with 4 HR and 17 RBI in 29 games played.  But keep in mind he’s got an insane .468 BABIP so that AVG will be down to .250 in due time.

Aaron Sanchez – 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K with the W.  This was the first game all season long that Sanchez allowed fewer than 2 walks, but don’t get used to it.  He should have a decent future as a mid-rotation guy if he can keep those walks in check, but despite the 3.55 ERA he currently sports, he is best left for the waiver wire.

Adam Jones – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Jones has notoriously been known as one of the most free swingers since he’s been in the Majors, and nothing has changed in that regard this year as he is 3rd in the Majors in swing percentage.  However, what has changed is the amount of times he swings and misses.  His swinging strike rate this year is just at 10.3%, which is much lower than his career 13.5%.  So it is no wonder why his strikeout rate is currently 4 points lower than his career best.  If he can keep making contact at the rate that he is, then he could very well have his first .300 AVG season of his career.  He currently is hitting a healthy .310 with 8 HR, 29 RBI, 28 R, and 3 SB.

Matt Wieters – 2 for 3, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Wieters was activated from the DL and made his first start of the season after coming back from Tommy John surgery.  It was a nice debut as he sent a double to the opposite field off the wall, but I still have to believe that his power is going to be sapped coming back from the injury.  And that predicted power outage should also harm his BABIP and AVG too.  We’ll see what happens, but I am not high on Wieters.  The Orioles are sure glad to have him back though.

Jimmy Paredes – 0 for 4, 1 K.  Paredes’ AVG is now below .300 for the first time all season.  It was bound to happen considering how he was benefiting from a crazy high BABIP, and being among the league leaders in swinging strike percentage.  And with the slump has also come a knock down in the batting order.  He was hitting 1st-3rd for a long time for the Orioles, but he’s been hitting in the lower half since he began to slump.  I still like him as a power/speed threat with dual position eligibility in Yahoo, but his luster is beginning to wear off.

Brett Lawrie – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R.  Lawrie is quietly hitting .291, but with a hideous K/BB ratio and .383 BABIP, it is all a mirage.  The A’s sure have to be regretting dealing Josh Donaldson.

Scott Kazmir – 4.2 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 B, 4 K with the L.  This was Kazmir’s first start since having to leave his last start early with shoulder tightness.  It’s very much possible that the once injury prone Kazmir is still feeling some ill effects with his shoulder and it would not surprise me at all if he lands on the DL to give his arm and shoulder a bit of a rest.

Dustin Pedroia – 3 for 4, 2 R.  Pedroia came into the game with a great history versus Kazmir and he kept it up in this one.  I’ve been saying it since Spring Training that the old Pedroia would be back fully healthy, and he is killing it with a .311 AVG and 8 HR.

Cameron Maybin – 3 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 K.  Maybin keeps on producing for the Braves after I touted him as a good option for steals.  He’s hitting .280 with 5 HR, 25 RBI, 21 R, and 8 SB and looks to be on his way to a career year at age 28.

Williams Perez – 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 K.  If he only gave up a 5th earned run then we would truly have 5 of a kind here.  This was Perez’ first dud of a game, but he still is intriguing with his ground ball tendencies and decent strikeout potential.  If you don’t expect a whole lot from him (which you shouldn’t), then you won’t be disappointed.

Gregory Polanco – 2 for 4, 2 R, 2 SB, 1 BB.  Polanco returned to his old leadoff role with Josh Harrison receiving the night off, and he responded with a nice performance where he stole his 15th and 16th bases of the season.  Maybe he’s worked his way back up to the top of the order permanently.  The speed is nice, but he’s got some untapped power and AVG potential that would be nice to see him cash in on.

Starling Marte – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB.  I’m not sure how he’s doing it, but Marte keeps on hitting HR despite only hitting fly balls 20% of the time.  At some point, his HR rate has to slow down, but that’s not going to prevent him from still being one of the more exciting and fantasy valuable outfielders in the game.

Neil Walker – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  After launching a career high 23 HR last year, Walker is well off that pace this year, but he got a hold of his 5th HR of the season on Friday.  He’s likely to finish the year around 15 HR.

Kyle Gibson – 7 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.  Three starts ago, Gibson had just a 3.54 K/9, but in his last three starts he has 8.71 K/9.  Something to keep an eye on here.

Adam Lind – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R.  A couple weeks ago I noted that Lind was in a slump, but said he would bust out soon.  He’s officially said goodbye to the slump with a 6 RBI performance on Friday.  His AVG is back up to .290 and he has 9 HR and 31 RBI to go with hit.

Jonathan Lucroy – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Lucroy’s first HR of the year should help kickstart his offense after a slow start and a DL stint to begin the year.  He should go on to be one of the most valuable catchers the rest of the way.

Joey Gallo – 0 for 4, 4 K.  The golden sombrero for Mr. Gallo.  Now this is more like what I had outlined in “Is the Pico de Gallo in Texas Hot or Mild?”  Big time power, but big time strikeouts.  He now has 10 strikeouts in 16 AB.  Yikes.

Chi Chi Gonzalez – 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K with the W.  Wow, the Rangers prospect threw a shutout and has not been scored upon in 2 starts since his call up.  Impressive but I have to chalk this up to hitters just being unfamiliar with him.  Just look to the fact that he has not struck out more than he’s walked in either of his outings and he’s never been a big strikeout pitcher in the Minors.  With that being said, there’s not too much harm to just take a flier on him and ride him while the league still can’t figure him out.

A.J. Pollock – 3 for 4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB.  I’ve fallen in love with Pollock so anytime he does anything good I have to note it.  Check out “Pollock Painting a New Picture in Arizona” for more information on why I believed he could be this year’s Michael Brantley.  He is now hitting .330 with 7 HR, 25 RBI, 39 R, and 14 SB.  Beautiful.

Carlos Martinez – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 K with the W.  I wasn’t bullish on Martinez early on in the season, but it looks like I was wrong about that.  He’s clearly dominating lineups right now.  Yes, he does have some control issues at times, but his stuff is so electric that he has been able to work around the walks for the most part.  For this year’s sake though, let’s hope the Cardinals don’t limit his innings too much.

J.A. Happ – 7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.  Happ now has a nice 3.31 ERA and 1.24 WHIP as he continues to show much improved control over recent years.  At 6.75 K/9, he does have some more strikeout upside.  So he does make for a decent pitching option as long as he is limiting the free passes (1.93 BB/9).

Fernando Rodney – 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the L.  Okay, a bit ago I said that if Rodney had 2 more bad outings in his next 4 appearances then he would probably be getting the boot as the closer.  Granted, this wasn’t a save situation, but it was a situation with the game on the line as he came into pitch the top of the 9th inning in a tie game.  This was his 2nd bad outing in 3 appearances, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is removed as closer and put into lower leverage situations.  Carson Smith is the immediate add, but of course you knew this because I went over this weeks ago in “BLOW-PEN Report:  Fernando Rodney and His Broken Arrow.”

Jake Odorizzi – 4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.  Odorizzi was cruising along when he felt a tweak in his side on a pitch and he has been diagnosed with an oblique injury.  This is sure to sideline him for a while, which is very disappointing with the way that he was pitching towards a breakout season.  I have documented how the breakout was for real due to a change in his pitch arsenal, so this is a real bummer.  With the Rays already losing Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly for the season, they are just not having any luck.  Chris Archer better be counting his lucky stars.

Kevin Jepsen – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the SV.  Jepsen earned his 3rd save of the season and he has now collected saves in back to back games as neither Brad Boxberger nor Jake McGee pitched in this one on Friday.  Hmm, this is peculiar.  Boxberger hasn’t been that sharp as of late and there are reports of his velocity being down in recent outings.  If so, then this situation could be turning into the dreaded CBC (closer by committee).  I imagine if McGee hadn’t worked on back to back nights then he would have been called upon for the save opportunity.  So Jepsen is a fine speculative add, but McGee should also see opportunities if Boxberger is indeed battling velocity issues.

Giancarlo Stanton – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K.  Mike drop, as it went deep into the stands in left-center field.  Stanton now has 8 HR in 15 career games at Coors Field.  I think he likes it there.

J.T. Realmuto – 4 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 R.  Big game for Realmuto and he’s got more potential than he’s shown thus far.  Maybe this will be the start of something good for the Marlins catcher.  He should be owned in any two catcher league.

Tom Koehler – 7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W.  Koehler’s effort was actually one of the best of the night on a slate full of mediocre pitching, and impressive that it came at Coors Field.  But don’t get used to it as he is pretty much the exact definition of a league average pitcher.

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One thought on “Pat Venditte Gives A’s Bullpen a Hand (or Two) (and other notes from 6/5/15)

  1. Pingback: BLOW-PEN Report: Cubs, A’s, Astros, and Rays | The Backwards K

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