Last night was the perfect example of a point I have been trying to make for weeks now. The Braves 4-3 ratio of right-handers to left-handers in the bullpen is extremely limiting. It's even more limiting when you consider that Kimbrel and Venters are only going to be used in situations closers and set-up men are used in -- as in close games in the late innings. Martinez's role is also limiting, as he is the long reliever or innings eater in big losses. That gives you a 2-2 ratio of right-handers to left-handers that can be used for those middle innings like O'Flaherty was last night.
There are considerably more right-handers in baseball than left-handers. It is not very logical to have an even 2-2 ratio of right-handers as left-handers for those middle innings, especially when two of them are pretty terrible at getting opposite handed batters out. Moylan and Sherrill, despite Moylan's improved changeup, should not be used for full innings but rather situations with either one tough same-handed batter or a series of same-handed batters.
So O'Flaherty and Linebrink are the two relievers counted on to pitch full innings regardless of handedness of the batters. They are supposed to be the relievers that can get both sides out and can be used in almost any situation. They are, more or less, filling the Venters role from last season. Well, right-handers have a career .386 OBP against O'Flaherty. He is a nice pitcher, but he's a far cry from Venters. With this current set-up, these types of innings where O'Flaherty pitches to three right-handers and one left-hander are going to happen. He got the lefty out, and allowed three straight hits to righties.
Having three lefties is overkill, even if one is Venters. There needs to be more flexibility in this bullpen. Sherrill is a useful player for some teams, but not teams with two other capable lefties and a right-hander who has better career numbers against lefties than righties in Linebrink. I can't blame any of the players in this situation. It was easy to tell what all the bullpen arms had as strengths long before the season, and management should have constructed a bullpen that is flexible, not one that has a bunch of different specialists. Scott Linebrink being the most flexible member of the bullpen speaks for what type of shape this group is in. It looks good at the back end and on paper, but when you dig a bit deeper you can see the obvious, gaping holes.