If I am going to call out other bloggers for their comments, it is only right that I call out myself when I make a booboo. When the choice was made before Ben Sheets’ return to go with Mike Minor over Randall Delgado, I questioned it here. While I would later walk it back a little by sharing the fact that demoting Minor would use up his final option, I did not believe from a pitching standpoint, the move was the right one.
Meanwhile, Minor has gotten better in each start since Boston destroyed him on June 24th. He has given the Braves six innings in his last three starts while allowing less than three earned runs in each of them. His metrics in those starts have improved over what has been a disappointing season. Of course, this being Atlanta, he’s 1-1 in those starts, but the efforts have simply gotten better. Yesterday, for the first time since May 11th and fourth time this season, he didn’t walk a batter. He’s going to give up homers because he’s a young flyball pitcher, but the Braves need him to limit the damage of those homeruns and one quick way is to make hitters have to “hit” their way on (get it?). Walks and not homers have been the smoking gun for Minor’s success. Avoid the free passes, possibly get deep into the game, ultimately give the team a better chance to win.
It’s a simple formula. In The Office, Pam said her formula to win a race was to start out fast, run fast during the middle, and run fast at the end. Jim asked why more people don’t do that? It’s quite difficult to avoid walks, especially when you can’t just rear back and throw a killer fastball. You need to be able to throw quality strikes and force hitters into counts where they have to go after the curveball and slider in hopes of staying alive.
Minor has been able to do that recently. He has shown the progress that Fredi Gonzalez said he was. He has an important two months left to stake his claim to a rotation spot for next season. More games like last night and he will likely be the fourth starter to open next season and won’t have to fight for his spot. A regression back to the first three months and the Braves will be forced to solidify the rotation this offseason. Well, they might have to regardless, but it would force their hand instead of being in a position to make the move if it’s there.