When Oakland Athletics’ switch-pitcher Pat Venditte first received his call-up to the major leagues, it seemed like a gimmick. With no disrespect intended, Venditte’s debut was more about the announcers giggling over having to announce which hand the pitcher’s glove was on than it was about thinking he could be a long-term success.
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Venditte has managed to go from a novelty to a valuable part of the Athletics’ bullpen by being one of the few reliable relievers that Bob Melvin can turn to when the team has a lead. So far, he’s posted a 3.31 ERA and managed 10 strikeouts, despite having one of the lowest average velocities in the game. Though 16.1 innings in 13 games, Venditte has just a 0.80 WHIP, and he’s done a surprisingly good job of keeping hitters at bay – from both sides of the plate.
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Perhaps the Oakland Athletics and their fans did not take Venditte as seriously as they should have. While he’ll never be a lights-out closer, his effectiveness makes him a good option for Bob Melvin and a tricky opponent for rival managers to deal with.
On Sunday, Venditte picked up his first-ever big league win, after pitching two innings on a night where Melvin hadn’t even intended to get him in the game. He also had his first career at-bat (although he was much less effective at the plate than at the mound).
Venditte has been a pleasant surprise in a season full of bad surprises, and the Athletics should consider making him a permanent part of the bullpen. He’s been more effective than fringe relievers like R.J. Alvarez and Arnold Leon, and he’s proven that he’s not just a diversion to draw attention away from the team’s record.
One of the biggest concerns about Venditte is how much of his success has to do with batters not being fully prepared to make adjustments to him yet. He is a bit of an oddity, and that seems to have kept hitters off-balance. No one has even attempted a stolen base off of him, and opposing hitters are batting just .158/213/.298 against him. What is concerning is that his BABIP is .156 – that’s not a number that is sustainable. It means that more of the balls put in play against Venditte are going to fall in for hits in the future, and that will likely result in more runs and a higher ERA.
While there is a possibility that he is just a one-year wonder, Venditte will have the entire month of September to prove he is worthy of a roster spot next spring. If he keeps up his current effort, the Athletics will have no excuse not to start the season with a switch-pitcher in the bullpen.