We heard time and time again that the Atlanta Braves bullpen was the best in baseball. The group put together by Braves General Manager Frank Wren couldn’t have been asked to do anything more than they did (barring David Carpenter in the postseason), but people seem to forget that the bullpen was missing two of its biggest names, Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty.
Before 2013, it was common to see O’Flaherty come into the game in the seventh inning followed by Venters in the eighth with Craig Kimbrel at the back-end to seal the day. The trio often called O’Ventbrel would a force to be reckoned with as they rarely gave up a run and hardly ever gave up a lead, but within a month of opening day 2013, O’Flaherty and Venters were both out for the season and set to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Thanks to the Braves’ top notch scouting and development program, these losses went nearly unnoticed as the holes were filled in with names like Luis Avilan and Alex Wood. When the team needed more arms, Wren was able to go out and pick up Scott Downs and Jordan Walden, and it worked so well O’Ventbrel became a thing of the past.
Now that both players are expected to return in time for next season or at most, miss the first month of so, the Braves bullpen will be even more dominant. After leading the majors with a 2.46 bullpen ERA it’s hard to imagine how much better it could get, but I’m already excited to find out.