Minor Makes Minor Change for Non-Minor Improvements

Going into the 2012 season, Mike Minor seemed to have good enough stuff for the makings of a decent fantasy pitcher. An above average strikeout rate and a below average walk rate are usually the components of a decent fantasy pitcher. Also, he looked to be a bit unlucky in 2011 and was posed for a breakout in 2012. The breakout eventually happened, but it occurred halfway through the season. He may be able to continue the 2nd half improvements into 2013.

Going into 2012, the 25-year-old lefty seemed like he was ready for a good season. His BABIP was inflated (.350) and it looked to regress down (which it did to .252). His ERA (4.14) was higher than his FIP (3.39), xFIP (3.62) and SIERA (3.76). Some comparable pitchers from the 2011 season with similar strikeout (21% K%) and walk (8% BB%) rates were C.J. Wilson (22%, 8%), Ryan Dempster (22%, 9%) and Bud Norris (22%, 9%). Not great pitchers, but decent.

The 2012 season did not start out as planned. From the beginning of the season to the end of June, he had a 6.20 ERA with a 7.6 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9. Additionally, he really began giving up home runs. Over the first 3 months of the season, he had a 1.9 HR/9 and a 10.8% HR/FB%. All of the preceding changes happened at the same time he lost velocity off his fastball. Since the start of the season, he had lost about 1-2 MPH off his fastball.

In all, he was looked to be headed down hill. Then halfway through the season, a couple of changes happened and he turned around the season. First, as seen in the above graph, his fastball began a climb back up. Second, he began to throw his fastball with a couple more inches of horizontal break (2012 data, curve is smoothed and shows the average break).

The results were amazing. His ERA dropped to 2.21. While his K/9 dropped only a bit to 7.0 while his BB/9 was cut in over half to 1.7. The biggest improvement was in his home run totals. His HR/9 went to 0.8 and the HR/FB% halved itself to 4.9%.

Mike Minor is not going to keep up a 2.21 ERA, but he should not be as bad as he was in the first half of the season. Without any preseason information, I would take him around pitchers with similar K and BB values. Once some PitchF/x information becomes available, his (potential) owners will then know where his fastball speed stands and and how much it breaks to help determine if he is pitching like the first or second half of 2012.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Good stuff. Matt Moore could end up pulling the same thing this year.