Not a lot has gone to plan for the Cubs this season. By the All-Star break, they were out of contact with the division leaders and nearly 20 games below .500 having failed to finish any of the season’s first three months at or better than even keeled.
Their mess started early when Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells hit the disabled list on back-to-back days in early April, but Wells’ return 53 days later didn’t help matters much at all. In his 11 starts from his return on May 28 to the end of July, Wells gave the Cubs just two quality starts and the team went just 3-8 when he was on the mound. Opponents hit .311/.370/.481 for an OPS of .851, or roughly the same OPS as Adrian Beltre or Todd Helton.
Since Aug. 1, Wells has looked for all the world like a completely different pitcher. The Cubs have gone 7-1 in his starts, and opponents are hitting just .213/.257/.366 for an OPS of .623, or somewhere between the OPS of Jason Bartlett and Alex Gonzalez. It’s clear that the Cubs prefer this version of Wells, and owners do as well, but is Dr. Jekyll here to stay or is Mr. Hyde waiting in the wings?
Hyde, you’re on in 5.
Wells’ WHIP in August was 0.91 because one of the lowest BABIPs I’ve seen in a while: .181, which is so obviously unsustainable, it hardly bears mentioning. He induced a large amount of infield flies — a season-best 13.2 percent — a 13.2 percent increase from his July rate. Wells is a groundball pitcher at heart and that’s not going to change in the season’s last month. As he gets back to inducing grounders and his BABIP returns to non-ridiculous levels, his results should normalize as well. He isn’t as bad as he looked in July or as good as he looked in August, but somewhere pleasantly between.
The Braves like Mike Minor, with good reason, and they absolutely had designs on a playoff run this season, but it seems fair to guess that they didn’t think Minor would be contributing to that goal quite to this level. Injuries are the great equalizer and the Braves are quite fortunate that they had Minor and Brandon Beachy waiting in the wings to pick up the slack for Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens.
In a purely baseball sense, Minor may not be the Braves’ first choice for the playoff roster, but he’s a totally usable piece. He can either start a non-elimination game in the latter part of a series or he can be plugged in, in long relief if a starter clearly doesn’t have it early in a game. He’s succeeded in giving the Braves winnable games nearly ever time he takes the mound; they’re 5-1 in his starts since he rejoined the rotation on Aug. 3. For a supplementary starter, that’s as good as anyone can reasonably expect.
From a fantasy perspective, Minor’s biggest weakness right now isn’t category specific. He’s not giving up a ton of runs, he’s not allowing a ton of base-runners, and he is notching a reasonable number of strikeouts, but he’s just not going deep into games. Minor hasn’t seen the seventh inning since his recall, which means the 3-4 runs he’s giving up in nearly every outing are hitting his ERA harder than they ought to be.
In NL-Only and even in deep mixed, I like Minor as a back-end starter, but I’m getting the sense that his ability to deliver quality outings and the Braves’ performance in those starts is artificially inflating his value. Right now, he is absolutely more valuable to the Braves than he is to your fantasy team.