Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reportedly announced Saturday that lefty starter Mike Minor will skip his next scheduled start. Minor has been struggling mightily all season long and the Braves are just trying to give him a start off to clear his mind. Through Minors struggles the Braves have been patient with him. However, In my estimation the Braves have been too patient.
Minor is coming off of a career year in which he put up career bests in every pitching category. In 32 starts last season Minor sported a record of 13-9, an earned run average (ERA) of 3.21, a walks + hits / innings pitched average (WHIP) of 1.09 — which ranked 9th in the National League, 204.2 innings pitched, and 181 strikeouts. Minor easily was one of the best pitchers in the national league and one the Braves could consistently rely on.
2014 has been a completely different story, much so a nightmare for the Braves young lefty. Minors numbers have made a complete 180°. See for yourself.
The 2014 season didn’t start off well for Minor as he saw himself placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder issue before the seasons start. Minor returned on May 2nd to face the San Francisco Giants; he pitched fairly well giving up 2 earned runs in 6.0 innings of work, but ultimately got the loss. Since then, aside from a few quality starts, Minor has progressively got worst. His earned run average has climbed each month.
Exactly how bad Minor has been? Minor has a wins above replacement (WAR) of -0.6 — anything below zero is considered replacement level. In a stat that rates how many runs better (+) or worse (-) a given pitcher/player is compared to an average pitcher/player (0), Minor checks in with a runs better than average (RAA) of -13. Batters have tore him up hitting .312 off him, with 18 homers in just 17 games. Lefties are reaching base 43 percent of the time when facing Minor. This has to change.
The Braves have been known to be a patient organization. Exhibiting the inclination to wait on their players to perform rather than jump at the gun to shake things up. Recent examples would be Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, even Jason Heyward at points in his career. I guess this worked out in Heyward’s situation, but I can’t say the same for Uggla, or even Upton.
Minor should be optioned to AAA Gwinnett Braves, pitch a few starts there to gain some confidence back, and get into some type of groove. This solution could work and it possibly couldn’t, I just believe at this point it’s worth a try because once again Minor is getting worst by the start.
Minor has one more option left. He had three after being drafted in 2009 (wasn’t on the 40-man roster in 2009). The Braves used the first one in 2010 (debut and spot starts), the second in 2011 (spot starts), and he started the season with the club in 2012 having not been optioned since (rehab assignments don’t count). According to Baseball-Reference.com, Minor only has 2.138 MLB service time therefore he’s not eligible for the veterans consent provision.
Who do we slot in for him? Easy. David Hale. Hale has been good for the Braves. More so starting — 2.22 earned run average — than coming out of the bullpen — 3.92 earned run average — but still good nonetheless. This move would require the Braves to call up another reliever such as a Luis Avilan or a Chasen Shreve, to replace Hale in the bullpen.
If the Braves have any plans for post season prosperity they are going to need Minor. It’s time to try something to get him out of this abysmal pitching slump.
Interestingly, in spite of Minors pitching woes the Braves still rank among the leagues best in many pitching categories. Imagine if Minor were pitching the way Braves fans know he can pitch.