August 9, 2012 at 8:48 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
Needless to say, Mike Minor has had an up and down season. Lately, he has been on an upswing, with a 3.15 ERA over his past 11 starts spanning 65.2 innings. His ERA has dropped from 6.57 to 4.95 during that time frame. There is pretty much no way, unless he puts up a Cy Young caliber performance down the stretch, that his numbers look good this season. But that does not mean that his season would not have been a success, especially if he can continue to pitch as effectively as he has since the start of June.
So what has Minor done differently to receive significantly better results in his last 11 starts compared to his first 10? He has upped the usage of his breaking balls while dropping the frequency in his changeup. In his first 10 starts, Minor through his changeup 18.9% of the time while he threw his curveball and slider a combined 22.9% of the time — 11.9% and 11.0% respectively. Over the past 11 starts, Minor has thrown his changeup just 12.5% of the time and his breaking balls a combined 26.7% of the time — 14.1% for the curveball and 12.6% for the slider. While he has been effective, he has thrown his changeup — commonly known as his best pitch — less frequently than any other pitch he has.
Here is a quote from an article I wrote in February about Minor’s success with his breaking balls.
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.
I had said during Minor’s rough stretch that a lot of the problem was sequencing. Minor certainly pitched poorly during the first two months of the season, most notably in May, but it is good to see that the staff has come to the realization that his breaking balls are instrumental to his success and need to be thrown with a higher frequency than they were early in the season. Not all of his issues can be blamed on sequencing, but over the past two years when Minor has been his most effective, he has been relying on his breaking balls. Hopefully that continues.