February 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, PITCHf/x
Mark Bowman recently posted an article on his blog after speaking with Mike Minor. Mark says that Minor feels very confident heading into spring training, which is certainly a positive. Minor has ran into some poor luck in his short Major League career, posting the second highest pitcher BABIP of .359 in the league since 2010, minimum 120 innings pitched. Minor also has the third highest ERA-FIP split of 1.23, which also signals that he has been at least somewhat unlucky over the past two seasons in the Majors.
Minor’s confidence level being high is important, as a pitcher with as bad of luck as Minor has had could easily feel just the opposite. What really stuck out to me in Bowman’s article was the part where he speaks about his breaking ball. Here’s a quote taken from Mark’s article.
“It feels like it did at the end of last season,” Minor said. “Hopefully I don’t eat my words and struggle with it in Spring Training. But it’s really been feeling good out of my hand.”
Minor has two breaking balls, so I was uncertain which one he was particularly talking about. I looked at his player card on Brooks Baseball to evaluate whether he actually did perform better with his breaking balls during the tail end of the year. I got some interesting results, especially when looking at his curveball.
|Curveball||Frequency||H. Mvt||V. Mvt||H. Rel||V. Rel||MPH|
|CU results||Ball||Call Str||Swings||Whiffs||BIP||GB||LD||FB|
It looks like Minor’s curveball really got going in August. He threw it more frequently, upped the velocity a tad, doubled the frequency that he averaged for the season, and threw fewer balls and generated a much higher whiff percentage. Minor had a 6.50 K/BB rate in August, easily his best of the year. The next highest rate was his 2.27 mark in September. The increased usage and effectiveness of his curveball seemed to have a big effect on his production.
Again, Minor ran into some bad luck that month. Despite the astonishing K/BB rate, he had a .391 BABIP that month and an ERA of 4.03 compared to an FIP of 1.95.
For some reason, Minor got away from the pitch the following month. There is a chance this is due to the poor luck he had with balls in play, but it is difficult to distinguish exactly why he cut his curveballs thrown rate so heavily.
|Slider||Frequency||H. Mvt||V. Mvt||H. Rel||V. Rel||MPH|
|SL results||Ball||Call Str||Swings||Whiffs||BIP||GB||LD||FB|
While Minor cut his curveball frequency, he upped his sliders thrown rate. He did not quite have the same level of effectiveness with the slider heavy approach, but he did create more ground balls with the pitch than he had in the past. Much like with his curveball, August seems to be the month he had the best feel for the slider. His whiff rate was higher than it was for the season, and his called strike rate saw a big improvement.
Minor received better results in September, pitching to a 3.67 ERA over the course of five starts. However, his peripherals were decidedly worse than they were in August. As mentioned, his K/BB ratio dropped to 2.27 — which is still fine — but his FIP rose all the way to 5.28, mostly due to allowing six homers that month alone.
While the better results are nice, Minor was actually pitching much more effectively in August. My hope is that the approach Minor had in August will be the approach he has over the course of next season. August was only a four start, 22.1 inning month, so the sample size is not the level you would want and his level of competition was not tremendous — Mets, Cubs, Giants, Mets. Even so, Minor seems to have a better feel for his curveball when throwing it more frequently. While his fastball-changeup combination is his bread and butter, he threw the two a combined 72% of the time in August compared to 81% of the time for the season. When he relied on his breaking balls more heavily, we saw Minor pitch as well as he ever has at this level. With the confidence and feel he has in his breaking balls entering the season, pitch frequencies like he had in August could lead to a big break out year.