As Ken Rosenthal reports , the Braves are stocked deep in pitching, which is no surprise to any Braves follower.

What he mentions in the article that caught my eye was that he sees the Braves’ left-handed side of the bullpen as potentially the best in the game.

“The left side of the ‘pen—Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Billy Wagner—might be the best in the game,” said Rosenthal.

Over the past two seasons, Bobby Cox has gone away from his traditional approach of keeping one and possibly two left-handed relievers on the roster, with Billy Wagner entrenched as the closer. This was a similar case at the start of last year with Mike Gonzalez closing games and Boone Logan and O’Flaherty as middle relievers.

Lately, Jonny Venters’ role has increased due to Takashi Saito’s injury and the lack of production from other middle relievers. In addition to Saito being injured, Peter Moylan has performed poorly as of late (8.81 ERA in 7 appearances spanning 3.1 innings). This has put added pressure on Venters to produce, and aside from a few bumpy outings, he has certainly run with the increased role.

Here are the stats from all three lefties this year. The top number is their overall and the bottom is against left-handed hitters.

Billy Wagner : 4-0, 26 G, 25.1 IP, 1.42 ERA, 2.93 xFIP, 13.50 K/9, 3.91 BB/9, 11 SV

vs. LH: 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 3.61 xFIP, 9.95 K/9, 4.26 BB/9

Eric O’Flaherty : 2-1, 32 G, 25.2 IP, 2.10 ERA, 3.42 xFIP, 7.71 K/9, 3.16 BB/9

vs. LH: 13.1 IP, 2 ER, 2.28 xFIP, 9.45 K/9, 1.35 BB/9

Jonny Venters : 2-0, 23 G, 27.2 IP, 0.98 ERA, 3.57 xFIP, 10.08 K/9, 5.20 BB/9

vs. LH: 16.1 IP, 0 ER, 2.86 xFIP, 12.71 K/9, 3.18 BB/9

Both Venters and O’Flaherty have been much better against lefties than righties. Wagner has had better numbers against right-handers but has a much smaller sample size. Wagner pitches strictly the final inning, whereas Venters and O’Flaherty are brought in to pitch in certain situations. Obviously, that will allow O’Flaherty and Venters to pitch to more lefties, where Wagner will be forced to face whomever is due up in the ninth.

With an entirely right-handed rotation, teams usually stack as many left-hand options as reasonably possible against the Braves. This means, later in games, guys like Venters and O’Flaherty will get their opportunities—and when they get them, they certainly produce. Between the three lefty relievers, they have thrown a combined 36 innings and allowed just two earned runs.

The combined ERA against left-handed hitters of Billy Wagner, Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty is 0.52.

It would take a great deal of research to find out if their are any comparable left-handed reliever groups in the league, but at best they can only match what these three have done.

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