Mike Minor’s Resurgence: A Home Run Story

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 12: Pitcher Mike Minor #38 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field on August 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Braves starter Mike Minor did his best Wednesday night in attempting to join Philip Humber, Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez as pitchers with no-hitters in 2012, but lost the bid after six clean innings against the Rockies, finishing with 7 innings of shutout ball, with 7 strikeouts, 4 walks and one hit.

OK, so it wasn’t exactly the closest thing to a no-hitter, but as Ray pointed out in today’s Roto Roundup, Minor is now 8-10 with a 4.58 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 4.45 xFIP, 1.22 WHIP and a 124-51 strikeout to walk ratio in 155.1 innings, and while his numbers aren't eye-popping, Minor should be on everybody's fantasy radar.

Since giving up 4 earned runs against the Nationals on June 30, Minor has allowed 3 earned runs or less in 10 of 11 starts, going 4-4 with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and a 52-13 strikeout to walk ratio in 69.2 innings. In that span, Minor’s season ERA has dropped from 6.20 to 4.58.

Yet somehow, Minor’s hot stretch has gone unappreciated, as he’s still available in half of ESPN leagues and in 60% of Yahoo! leagues. Minor’s dreadful first half, in which he posted a 5.97 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, probably scared off some owners for good, but outside of one terrible month in May, he’s actually been a pitcher worth using each time out.

More on Minor’s terrible May and excellent turnaround, after the jump:

April: 2-2, 4.68 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 30-8 K/BB

May: 0-2, 9.95 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 21-13 K/B

June: 2-2, 4.55 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 21-17 K/B

July: 2-1, 1.98 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 26-4 K/BB

August: 1-3, 3.57 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 19-5 K/BB

September: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 7-4 K/BB

Take away May, and Minor’s line looks like this: 8-6, 3.53 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 103-38 K/B. For comparison, that would sandwich Minor between Cliff Lee and Jon Niese on the NL ERA leader board. Not bad company.

So why isn’t Minor getting more love? Most likely it’s the 25 home runs allowed, tied for 7th most in the majors. Only five pitchers have allowed more home runs per nine innings, and one of those pitchers on the list, Joe Blanton, is a notorious repeat offender. Comparisons to Blanton might really scare off owners, but it shouldn’t.

While Minor has never been immune to the long ball, it’s never been this bad, and recent returns suggest it won’t be this bad in the future.

Check out Minor’s HR/9 in 2012, by month:

April: 0.83

May: 3.55

June: 1.63

July: 1.32

August: 0.76

September: 0.00

As you can see, after an unremarkable May in which he served up 10 homers in 25.1 innings, Minor has improved each month. His groundball and fly ball rates have stayed pretty consistent month to month, so Minor’s long ball tendencies might simply be a matter of bad luck.

I headed over to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, and found that 10 of Minor’s 25 home runs allowed have fallen under the "just enough" or "lucky" classification of home runs, meaning the ball just cleared the fence, or that the ball hit out of the park was lucky due to wind or random chance.

While the ESPN Home Run Tracker isn’t the be-all and end-all, it helps show that Minor’s lofty home run total isn’t a total failure on his part. Furthermore, in 15 starts last year, Minor allowed just 7 home runs in 82.2 innings, good for 0.76 HR/9. And in the minors, he never had trouble with the long ball, allowing just 21 home runs in 230 innings.

So which Minor are you going to trust? The one who served up 10 long balls with a 9.95 ERA in 25.1 innings way back in May, or the one who’s given up 15 with a 3.53 ERA in 130 innings outside of May? I'll take the larger sample size, and roll with the Minor outside of May.

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