March 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Statistical Analysis
Mike Minor’s peripherals are a big reason for being so high on him. His current MLB ERA is 4.74, which will certainly alarm the average fan, but his FIP of 3.51 and xFIP of 3.63 are both better than league average over the past two years.
Minor has shown a solid ability post above average strikeout-to-walk ratios and a slightly better than average home run rate over his 24 Major League appearances. Those factors, the controllable ones, lead me and other saber-inclined baseball fans to expect Minor to begin to receive above average results to match the above average performance.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that his line drive rate over the past two years is concerning. His ERA is so high mainly due to high batting averages on balls in play. Over the past two years, his BABIP has sat at .379 and .350, respectively. The league average rate over the past two years has been .293 each season. While it is easy to point out that his BABIP should regress closer to the league average rate, the amount of line drives he has allowed may keep that number high.
The below charts use data taken from Brooks Baseball player cards, with the final five categories being Pitch IQ scores – greater than 100 is above average and under 100 is below average. For line drives and fly balls, the lower the rate the better.
Last year, line drives were hit on all of his pitches at a worse than average rate. This is somewhat of a worry, as line drives are generally the worst type of contact a pitcher can allow. It does strike me as somewhat odd that he is able to strike out so many batters while allowing such a large amount of line drives. And 24 appearances is hardly a large enough sample to say that these rates will remain constant throughout a career.
What is even more worrisome is that his xBABIP last year was .342. That type of expected BABIP could lead to Minor being the type of pitcher that annually under-performs in terms of ERA relative to DIPS. But again, he has just 24 appearances under his belt and these rates are not certain to repeat.
As an optimist and as someone who likes what Minor offers on the mound, I think the line drive rates are likely to decline. Either that, or his strikeout rates will drop. I do not see the latter happening, as he has posted stellar strikeout rates everywhere he has pitched as a professional. As high as I am on Minor — I made a bold prediction on RotoGraphs that he will be the team’s best pitcher this year — we all must use caution when projecting his future performance by simply regressing his BABIP. The line drives have been a concern, but I expect him to get that aspect of his game under control during his first full season as a Major League starter.