Tag: Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O’Flaherty to Braves: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Eric O’Flaherty is returning to the Atlanta Braves

The veteran left-handed reliever, who spent five seasons in Atlanta, was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday for undisclosed cash considerations, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

The Braves gave their former ace reliever a hearty welcome following the announcement:

The crafty lefty has a five-pitch repertoire, per FanGraphs, that includes a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, an off-the-table curveball and a strong changeup. 

Such an arsenal made him a coveted target for a Braves bunch that has a huge need for southpaw relievers—particularly one who’s had such success against left-handed hitters. 

General manager John Coppolella said O’Flaherty caught his eye during a spring training game against his club just last week.

“When we saw him, [his fastball] was 89-92 [mph] and he had the good hard slider,” Coppolella said, per Bowman. “He struck out [Braves third baseman] Hector Olivera with that slider. We’ve seen how he used to run in against right-handers with that slider. He used to really eat them up.”

O’Flaherty, 31, underwent Tommy John surgery while playing for the Braves in 2013 and hasn’t been quite the same pitcher since. He finished last year with an 8.10 ERA and 2.167 WHIP in 30 innings over 41 games with the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics

But during a run from 2009 to 2013, he was arguably the top reliever out of the Braves bullpen outside lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel. O’Flaherty and Kimbrel tallied the best ERAs among qualified relievers from 2010 to 2012 at 1.59 and 1.46, respectively, per Bowman. 

Coppolella said the chance to add a veteran the Braves know and are comfortable with was also a huge sell, per Carl Kotala of the Associated Press:

We’ve been trying to find a left-hander all spring. He’s somebody we know. When our scouts saw him and when our field staff saw him, we felt like he was somebody who could help us out.

Obviously, we know this guy’s great off the field. He was great on it with us. We’re hoping he can fill a need a help us get better.

O’Flaherty’s return to the Braves is a win-win for both parties. 

He’s currently on a minor league contract, per Rotoworld, meaning he’ll be a cost-effective addition for a team that’s firmly in rebuild mode. And for the lefty, it’s a shot at redemption in the latter stages of his career. 

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The Left Side Of The Braves Bullpen May Be The Best In Baseball

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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