Miner Details

Last year, the Tigers had high hopes for their team, but those expectations were sabotaged by some brutal performances from their starting pitchers. In 2009, they’ve rebuilt their rotation, adding Edwin Jackson via trade, Zach Miner moving from the bullpen, and Rick Porcello from the farm system.

Jackson and Porcello hae gotten most of the ink, as a hard throwing pair of new guys that a lot of Detroit fans hadn’t seen pitch. However, Zach Miner is quietly going about his business, and there’s reasons to think he might be the best of the three this year.

His fastball averages just over 90 MPH, but he gets good sink on the pitch – his career GB% is 48.4%, and 61% of his balls in play in his first start of the year were hit on the ground. His fastball won’t light up radar guns, but he has enough movement on it to get a decent amount of worm burners. Being a groundball pitcher can help make up for a lack of velocity.

Miner’s second pitch is a change-up that he threw 26.5% of the time in his first start – he definitely has a lot of faith in it, and having a quality change is one of the keys to holding opposite handed hitters in check. In Miner’s case, he has a fairly normal platoon split (LH batters have a 100 point OPS bonus versus RH batters), but the change gives him a weapon to keep LH hitters off balance.

He has both a slider and a curve, though he generally uses one or the other. In his first start of ’09, he went the curve rather than the slider, a flip from his ’08 repertoire. Neither is a knockout pitch, but they’re both useful pitches and give him a legitimate third pitch.

Miner was a decent pitcher last year, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation. As a full-time starter, he’s not going to rack up the strikeouts like Porcello or throw 95 like Jackson, but his combination of a sinking fastball, a change-up he believes in, and a useful breaking ball might make him the best of the three in 2009.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

10 Responses to “Miner Details”

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  1. Ed Nelson says:

    I’m having a hard time understanding why the Tigers seem so resistant to putting Miner in the rotation. He’s been consistently successful with his performances, he’s young enough to expect some improvement, and the Tigers have rebuilt their defense to maximize the effectiveness of his skill set. Guys that pitch to contact can have games where they get unlucky and give up some runs, but pitchers can be successful without stikeouts. Hopefully the Tigers give him a chance going forward.

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  2. Ed Nelson says:

    That’s the point. If your putting together a fantasy team yes K/BB ratio is an important stat. However, in real life some pitchers can reliably induce ground balls and be effective without strikeouts. In real life Miner was a much better pitchers than Verlander was in 2008, and despite Verlander’s talent that trend is continuing into this year. If all you look at is K/BB ratio than you would have concluded that Brett Myers was a better pitcher in 2008 then Jamie Moyer, the problem being that the results clearly indicate that Moyer had a better year.

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    • Alex says:

      First of all K/BB rate is the single most important (simple) statistic for evaluating any pitcher in any context. It’s not just a fantasy stat at all. GB pitchers can survive with a K/BB rate below average (Wang being a perfect example), but 1.35 is so horrible it’s extremely unlikely any pitcher will even approach a 4.00 ERA with it. That 4.50 FIP (I think) factors in his GB ability. But I’ll give you another stat that I know uses GB%. His tRA last season was 5.30. That means if his GB/LD/FB, K, and BB all translated with normal luck, his ERA would be well over 5.

      And what do you mean Moyer had a better year? Myers had a better K rate, better BB rate, and MUCH better GB rate. Moyer didn’t do anything better than him. He just got a little more lucky.

      I am 100% aware that pitchers with an ability to prevent HRs will do better than those that can’t prevent HRs. However… groundballs will fall for about as many hits (around 30%), and if a guy can’t miss bats or keep guys off base with great control they are going to be very, very bad. You need to put up a K/BB rate at least approaching 2.0, and if you can’t you don’t really deserve a job in major league baseball.

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      • Nick says:

        Moyer was a little lucky? That explains having a .8 advantage in ERA and 6 more wins? I doubt it.

        Maybe, Moyer is just an extremely smart pitcher, and Myers is an incredibly moronic pitcher? It would certainly follow, Myers hasn’t demonstrated himself as a smart person off the diamond.

        Suggesting that Zach Miner doesn’t deserve a job in major league baseball is more than a little bit ridiculous. He contributed positive win values last year, despite having a season which, I think, was actually worse than he is capable of having. He showed significant improvement over the course of the season, especially in walk rate (2.05 K/BB after the break). And, considering he was in competition with Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis, not putting Miner in the rotation would’ve been a very strange decision.

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  3. Ed Nelson says:

    Alex all those stats are terrific ways of evaluating baseball on a maco level. However, suggesting that (for example) that all groundballs produced by hitters will fall for hits at a 30% rate is immaterial to the discussion. The only thing we are concerned with here is whether Zack Miner’s GBs and Jamie Moyer’s GBs will fall at that rate. I think that’s the point. When evaluating the performance of a player you can’t just provide an arbitrary set of standards, devoid of any context, and say that’s good or bad.

    As a broad evaluation you can look at stats and call certain trends luck, but there is such a thing as having the ability to throw the right pitch, at the right time, to the right person, and get the right result over and over again and consistently outproduce your peripheral statistics. Jamie Moyer does it, Paul Maholm does it, Ichiro does it, and I think Zack Miner could do it to if he was given a chance.

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    • Alex says:

      A pitcher does not have any significant control over balls in play. Jamie Moyer’s career BABIP is around .291. It’s a little bit lower than league average, however it has fluctuated significantly from .250 to .330 over his career. This just shows how little control he has over the statistic. This isn’t really where he was lucky last year. It was his HR/FB rate that was a HIGHLY lucky 9%. The year before with his ERA was over 5. His HR/FB was 11.8%. In that ballpark, that makes more sense. He also had an unusually low LOB% last year, which was closer to his career mark in 2007. With a K/BB rate around 2, and a GB% around 40%, he should be able to post a low to mid 4’s ERA in that ballpark, but 3.71 is not a level of his true skill.

      Brett Myers had a 15.6% HR/FB rate, .311 BABIP against, and a pretty standard LOB%. He was unlucky, Moyer was lucky. How is that so hard to accept?

      Going back to Miner, he did improve over the second half of the season in K/BB rate, however…..

      First half: 53% groundballs
      Second half: 43% groundballs

      So his improvement wasn’t significant. Improvement in one aspect of pitching, significant regression in another. His xERA in the first half last year was 4.98, in the second half it was 4.74. A little improvement? Sure. But does that mean he’s a good pitcher? Not at all. How can there be such a significant difference between ERA and xERA, tRA, and even FIP? What about a .285 BABIP and 7.4% HR/FB.

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  4. bdoublegeez says:

    Might I point out that Miner doesn’t need to good simpliciter for Dave’s argument to win the day? Dave is only claiming that Miner very well could be better than Jackson (He’s never had an FIP close to 4.50 and appeared in at least 20 games in the Bigs.) and Porcello (He’s never pitched about A-ball.) in 2009. It really isn’t such a bold claim after all.

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    • bdoublegeez says:

      Might I also point out that I should proof read my posts before hitting “Submit Comment”? Sheesh.

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      • Nick says:

        I actually think Jackson will be the better pitcher in 2009. He looks very solid in the early going, and if he can keep it in the zone like he did in his first start, start getting some swings and misses with the slider or curve, he’ll have a very nice season. Jackson definitely has the more upside of the 3.

        Miner should turn in a solid #4 starter’s campaign if Leyland just leaves him there and doesn’t jerk with his role. I’m afraid that that will not happen though.

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