There are issues with Mike Minor on the mound. He has allowed far too many home runs this year, eight in eight starts, and his BABIP once again is astronomically higher than league average. His current BABIP of .336 is getting laughed at by the league average .288 mark, and his career BABIP of .353 is nowhere near the league average during that span of .290.
At this point, it is easy for some to conclude that Minor is rather hittable. He seems like a classic control but not command guy, as his 2.93 K/BB rate this season — which matches his career rate — shows that he can throw strikes at a high rate but not strikes of the highest quality. He has still started just 31 games and thrown 170.1 innings, so it is likely too early to say he will always be a pitcher with a high BABIP, despite the fact that the number has been high in each of his three stints in the majors.
Even with the possibility that Minor is rather hittable, he is not nearly as bad as his ERA suggests. Currently, only Chris Volstad and Tim Lincecum have bigger spreads between their ERA and FIP, and his xFIP of 3.81 is around the league average. A pitcher with Minor’s talents should be shooting for better than league average production, so it is absolutely true that he has not pitched very well, but his season has not nearly been as ugly as one would immediately assume.
Lincecum’s season to date actually has many similarities to Minor’s, as both possess decent to good strikeout-to-walk rates, very high BABIP’s, and both sit near the bottom of the league in left on base percentage. The left on base rate is an interesting note, as Minor really had no issues in this department last year, when he started fifteen games with a 4.14 ERA and 3.39 FIP. This year, the mark has dropped to 52.7%, with Lincecum’s at 60.4%. This number, for both pitchers, pretty much has nowhere to go but up. Lincecum is obviously the superior pitcher, and his home run allowed rate has allowed his FIP to be drastically lower than Minor’s, but it does appear like the luck factor has swung against both of these starters thus far.
As the folks at Talking Chop point out, there is a possibility that Minor is simply struggling with his mechanics in the stretch. As they note, his line with the bases empty is .226/.282/.339 against .422/.461/.766 with men on, which could certainly indicate that he is just having issues in the stretch. I am not quite sure whether now is a significant enough sample size to say that is true, but it is something to consider. Those issues in the stretch could be a reason why his left on base rate is so low, and why he has been so susceptible to the big inning rather than allowing a run or two across a number of innings in each start. Last year, Minor did not share these issues, as his line with the bases empty was .345/.399/.554 against .216/.291/.316 with men on. To me, this looks like a small sample against a small sample, and one that will eventually even out over the course of a season.
It is true that at some point the excuses need to stop for Minor. His SIERA, FIP, and xFIP say he should be a pitcher with a roughly 3.65-3.75 ERA for his career, but his 5.39 ERA says he should be battling for a rotation spot or in the minors. The Braves are apparently sticking with him, but if he continues to allow six runs per start as he has done in each of his past four starts they will call up Julio Teheran or Jair Jurrjens, or maybe move Kris Medlen to the rotation.
Even though there will be a time to stop making excuses, that time is not now. His career home run rate is not abnormally high, his strikeout rate is above 20% and his walk rate is under 8%, and the velocity on his pitches is still solid. A bigger sample is needed before Minor is deemed an ineffective starter, and judging by his peripherals, that will not be the conclusion.