Meet Craig Kimbrel And Rest of Atlanta Braves’ MLB-Best Bullpen
Meet the Atlanta Braves' league-best bullpen
The Atlanta Braves' bullpen has been the best in baseball this year. Even with the loss of their top two setup men, Johnny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, the Braves have posted a MLB-leading bullpen 2.37 ERA. With a nearly 40 point margin between the Braves and the second-best Kansas City Royals, the bullpen in Atlanta is far and away top dog.
After the injuries to Venters and O’Flaherty early on, with both needing Tommy John surgery this year, Braves’ GM Frank Wren had to put something together if the Braves hoped to be postseason contenders.
Craig Kimbrel remains the front man for bullpen, currently on a 27-straight save streak and boasting a 1.17 ERA. Though Kimbrel isn’t the focus of this piece, we know what he is capable of. What is really intriguing is the ragtag group of hard-throwing arms Wren has built to create the most dominant relief crew in baseball.
A strong bullpen is key in the postseason. Teams with weak bullpens tend to get beat up by good lineups, that Braves themselves have the highest number of comeback wins in the NL and are one of the best at keeping a lead once they have it.
Follow the slideshow and learn more about the players behind Atlanta’s bullpen success.
David Carpenter has definitely been a huge pickup for the Braves this season. Carpenter is a guy that can come in at any time, pitch a few innings and keep the team in the game. The righty has turned out to be a reliable workhorse in Atlanta, posting a 1.76 ERA through 46 innings pitched.
Scott Downs is a left-hander that the Atlanta Braves acquired from the Los Angeles Angels near the trade deadline. With Luis Avilan having as the only lefty in the pen, Frank Wren needed a left-hander to supplement him, Scott Downs has been just that. He's put up a 1.84 ERA for the Angels but has given up no runs yet as a Brave.
Right hander Luis Ayala was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles early on and has had an outstanding season. Mostly used as a specialist, Ayala hasn't seen too many games this season. Regardless, when he has, he's been great. Ayala has a 2.16 ERA through 16.2 innings this season.
Anthony Varvaro has been the Braves' long reliever for most of the season. His numbers aren't quite as dominating, but over a 52 inning period, he's posted a 3.12 ERA. While not a guy I'd like to see in a high-leverage situation, Varvaro is perfect for holding comfortable leads.
Luis Avilian has carried this bullpen through the season. He's been the team's only lefty since the loss of Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty. I thought the Braves' chances at going deep into the playoffs year were over after the injuries, but Avilan has posted an amazing 1.12 ERA through 48.1 innings, starting right where the injured southpaws left off.
Jordan Walden was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in the offseason. The righty has an interesting delivery where he essentially jumps off his rear foot toward the hitter. It's works for him, but it is concerning. For a pitcher to have control of his pitches, he needs to repeat his delivery to exact same way every time. The jump in his delivery can ruin Walden's command easily, but he's kept his mechanics in check so far this season. He has posted a 2.50 ERA through 39.2 innings pitched.
The 2011 Rookie of the Year and three time All-Star hasn't let up yet. He's been a tad shaky compared to last season, but that's expected being that he had one of the most, if not the most, dominant seasons by a relief pitcher in history. He blew consecutive saves earlier in the season, but has been unstoppable since then. Kimbrel has a 1.17 ERA this season and is 37 for 40 in saves.