I tweeted this incredible fact the other day: the Braves have used relievers on zero days' rest 89 times this year, which is 20 more than any other team.
Part of this is due to the Braves simply using their relievers a lot. They have had 290 relief appearances this season, which is 2nd-most in baseball behind the Marlins' 294. If you use your relievers that often, it's hard to avoid using them with no rest.
Yet it can be done: the Blue Jays have had 288 relief appearances, only 40 of which were with 0 days' rest. That's less than half the Braves' total in basically the same number of relief games. One of their best relievers, Jason Frasor, has appeared in 40 games, only 2 of which were with no rest.
Indeed, even if you take the percentage of relief appearances that are with no rest, the Braves come out on top--by far. Here are the top 5:
- Braves, 30.7% of appearances on 0 days' rest
- Athletics, 25.8%
- Diamondbacks, 25.6%
- Rays, 25.3%
- Nationals, 24.9%
The Braves' 3 most-used relievers--Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, and Eric O`Flaherty--are also 3 of the least-rested relievers in baseball. Venters' 21 appearances on 0 days' rest is easily tops in baseball, while O'Flaherty's 18 such appearances ranks 2nd. Kimbrel, with 16, is in a tie for third. On a percentage basis, Venters (41.2%) and O'Flaherty (40.0%) are also the top 2 in MLB, while Kimbrel ranks 17th.
At this pace, the Braves will end up with 157 no-rest appearances, which would be tied for 4th-most all-time. Check out the all-time list here. Notice how highly the recent Braves teams rank. It appears that Fredi Gonzalez is serious about continuing the traditions of the Bobby Cox era.
Fredi did seem to recognize toward the end of the first half that he had been abusing some of his top relievers. He even gave Jonny Venters multiple days off in a row. So perhaps he will be more conscious of long-term goals in the second half, and less focused on short-term gratification.
One factor that could work to the Braves' advantage would be an offensive uptick. If the Braves could score a few more runs, they would play fewer close games, which would make it easier for Fredi to spread out the bullpen workload. It's a tough job for even the savviest of managers, so Fredi can use all the help he can get.
Along those lines, it'd be great if Frank Wren could find another dependable bullpen arm to help take the burden off of Venters, Kimbrel, and O'Flaherty. That would also provide insurance in case of an injury to one of those guys, which is a very real concern, given how much work they've had so far this year.
It's too late to undo any damage that may have been done in the first half, but it's not too late to take steps that will keep our key relievers as fresh as possible for the stretch run and, hopefully, the playoffs.