Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Analyzing Minor's Struggles

Mike Minor was hammered by the Red Sox in his last outing. While its no earth-shattering news that he's been struggling, Fredi wants to keep using him in the series against the Nationals this weekend. He's sure to be on a short leash, though. Should he put up another poor performance, the Braves already have options in-house with Medlen and Teheran and are reportedly looking to make moves for a veteran starter.
Mike Minor has an un-serviceable 6.14 ERA, 5.52 FIP, and 4.56 xFIP. He has been inconsistent to say the least. 

After checking his splits and pitch profile, a few things jumped out at me: 
First, holy crap Minor gets worse as the game goes on. Towards the beginning of the game, he has been effective with his stuff. In the middle innings however... its a different story. 

Innings 1-33.8651439.215.281.356.637
Innings 4-69.36131827.348.417.6951.112

Second, a high walk rate. 9.4% is close to the bottom in the league - not quite in very worst tier, but far below middle of the pack. This is clear evidence that he has trouble commanding his pitches. He is 8 of 9 in walking someone in 3-0 counts. 

Third, He gives up a ton of HRs. 18 leads the league. In 14 appearances, mind you

Fourth. Curiously,  his "stuff" is not bad at all.  His slider and curveball have decent amount of movement on them. His changeup has a respectable -6.6 MPH drop in speed compared to his fastball.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that Mike Minor's troubles stem from inability to make effective adjustments as the game wears on. Itunlikely that he just magically loses his stuff - he shouldn't be that tired by the 4th or 5th inning. But hitters get ridiculously better once they've already seen him that day.  They are able to sit on pitches, predict them accurately, and smash them out of the park. In fact, his line drive rate has taken a tumble by 7%, but it seems that this is because any time a ball gets hit hard, it's walloped into the tenth row (16.5% HR/FB ratio). Because his stuff hasn't been bad, there must be something tipping hitters off and preventing Minor from fooling them, be it pitch sequence, pitch location, arm slot, or arm speed.

His batted ball profile for his changeup is a telling example: despite having a solid speed drop from his 4-seam, the changeup gets slammed for a HR a whopping 2.5% of the time. With a vast majority of Minor's homers coming the middle innings, it might be that batters know to look for an ever-so-slightly slower arm speed to tip off the pitch. 

All of this is compounded by weak control, which puts men on base for home runs to drive in, prevents Minor from implementing damage control measures, causes his ERA to skyrocket, and lose games for the Braves. 

Unless Minor fixes whatever ails him the second and third times through the lineup whether it be pitch sequence or arm mechanics on his offspeed stuff, the Braves cannot rely on him down the stretch (-0.4 WAR) if they want to stay competitive in the National League.

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