In a victory for the People's Popular Pat Venditte Liberation Front, the Oakland Athletics have promoted switch-pitcher Pat Venditte to the major league roster.
On meritocratic grounds, the promotion is long-deserved. Venditte was pitching very well for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings with a 33/13 K/BB ratio. This isn't a fluke; he has ALWAYS pitched well: his career numbers are 2.37 in 418 innings with a 464/116 K/BB and just 329 hits allowed. He's been effective at every level.
A 20th round pick by the Yankees in 2008 out of Creighton University, Venditte was sometimes dismissed as a novelty act in college, but he was good enough in the NCAA (2.86 ERA over four seasons in the high-offense metal bat era, 255/64 K/BB in 245 innings) to get drafted on his own merits.
Yeah, his best fastball is mid-80s, which will understandably make scouts extremely skeptical no matter what side you come from. But somehow, he's made it work for almost seven years now.
Yes, it is cool that he's finally getting a chance, especially since that same coolness factor ultimately worked against him in a way.
If you give a guy with a 97 MPH fastball but a bad track record a chance, nobody (except maybe some isolated bloggers) complains if he continues to stink because, hey, 97 MPH fastball. Baseball folk will not look askance if it doesn't work out, even if the guy has a questionable track record.
Photos by Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today
However, the guy who throws 87 (let alone 83), no matter how good his numbers, if you promote him and it doesn't work, the "I told you so, you dumb stathead" comments will flow. Nobody wants to look bad in the press or draw the criticism of colleagues. Add in extra weirdness like switch-pitching and, well, it's an uphill battle.
But it is a battle that Pat Venditte has now won. Even a handful of innings as a mop-up guy would be a victory, and it is one worth rooting for. It isn't a surprise really that it is the Athletics who are giving him a chance. Oakland has noticed that Venditte has simply been an effective pitcher all these years, and (most importantly) he may very well continue to get people out.
By the way, there is a switch-pitcher looking for a spot in the 2015 draft: Ryan Perez of Judson University in Illinois. Perez throws harder than Venditte, up to 94 MPH, and could get picked in a single digit round.
(portions of this article were published in the original Free Pat Venditte article last July).