Before the 2012 season, Mike Minor was offended that he had to earn his way into the rotation. After a great spring, his first three months were horrible, sporting a 6.20 ERA, only remaining in the rotation due to the ineffectiveness of Jair Jurrjens. The last three months were much better, lowering his season ERA two full runs, capped by a tremendous September.
April through June saw a myriad of struggles, ranging from gopheritis to control problems to stranding runners. In April, he actually threw well, posting a 3.28 FIP and 3.57 xFIP, but a 60% strand rate led to a 4.68 ERA. May was a whole ‘nother story. Strikeouts were down, walks were up, and ten balls left the park, leading to a 9.95 ERA, 8.23 FIP, and 5.64 xFIP. This is basically what Jurrjens was in Atlanta this year. June saw more walks but more balls stay in the park, resulting in a 4.50 ERA and a FIP and xFIP about a run higher.
Things suddenly clicked for Minor at that point. In his four July starts, he recorded the highest K rate of any month- 26.8% – and a tiny 4% walk rate. A 1.98 ERA for the month finally showed the Braves a reason to stick with him. August was an odd month, as he became a pitch-to-contact guy, walking and striking out no one, though his 3.57 ERA was manageable. Lost in the Kris Medlen hype, Minor put together his own sub-1.00 ERA in September, getting more groundballs than ever and striking out a quarter of the hitters.
Before this season, Minor’s biggest concern had been his batted ball profile. In his first 120 innings of his career, he had allowed a .360 BABIP, allowing a lot of line drives. He held the LD rate near average, as his flyball tendencies, along with some good luck, held opponents to a .252 BABIP. He did allow 26 home runs, which was about average for his flyball rate, still a bit high.
His strikeouts fell under 20% for the first time in the majors, but only by the slimmest of margins. Surprisingly, his curveball saw the most whiffs, about 35-40%. His changeup was his best pitch against righties, allowing only 11% line drives on the pitch, while also getting over 25% misses. His fastball was finally not pinballed around, allowing a .719 OPS on the pitch, opposed to a .850 OPS in ’10-’11.
His control was a bit iffy, only throwing 58% first-pitch strikes, but he managed to limit walks to 7%. Both of his breaking balls were a strike under 60% of the time, while his fastball and change were closer to a 2-to-1 ratio. Combining this and the whiff rates, the slider/cutter was his only below-average pitch, while his other three were about half a run per 100 pitches above average. No decisions need to be made on Minor yet, as he is in his last year before arbitration. As he turns 25 the day after Christmas, he should be a dependable left-handed presence in the rotation for the next few years.