2014 Fantasy Baseball: Mike Minor is Sinking
Recently, I spoke about Yovani Gallardo’s success, including the development of his sinker that truly began in 2012. Now, it appears as if Mike Minor is pulling a Yovani Gallardo. Unfortunately for Minor, his 2014 season hasn’t gone as well. He has given his fantasy owners a bloated ERA (4.54) and a ratio killing WHIP (1.45). They are suffering in the standings because of it, so there has to be a reason behind it all. Right? Yeah.
Much like Yovani Gallardo in 2012, Minor’s four-seam fastball has been rudely welcomed in 2014. It is giving up a lot of line drives, a lot of extra bases, and a lot of dingers. Right-handers have especially been strong against the pitch (.672 SLG-Against, .282 ISO-Against). Minor has given up 12 homers to right-handed hitters thus far, and six have been off the four-seamer. The lefty started out of the gate throwing his sinker and actually began the process during July of last season. Interestingly enough, Minor’s four-seamer was getting creamed throughout June, so perhaps he thought he needed to incorporate the sinker.
However, unlike Gallardo, the pitch has been just average. No one should expect too many whiffs from a sinker and while that is certainly the case for Minor, it isn’t the problem. The issue is it simply doesn’t induce enough groundballs. It is just league average. In fact, Minor’s groundball percentage is 39%, which is below average. But it happens to be the highest of his career. Minor has always been a fly ball pitcher and perhaps the new approach was a direct attempt to change that trend.
The sinker isn’t working as well as it needs to and perhaps lessening the use of the four-seamer (or perhaps its effectiveness) is hurting the success rate of another pitch, his changeup. The change has dipped in whiff percentage, going from above league average in 2013 to below it this season (17.03% to 11.85%). It has also been hit harder than ever before having a .229 ISO-Against. Minor’s best pitch has been his curveball, and he throws it effectively against both righties and lefties.
What we have established is that Minor’s sinker is a league average offering. The question is, is Minor’s four-seamer still good enough? If not, then he may have no choice but to continue on with the sinker and hope it develops. After all, Gallardo’s sinker didn’t become a groundball machine overnight.
The biggest issues facing Minor are his BABIP, HR/FB%, and his contact percentage.
The most disappointing findings are his swinging strike rate and the outside contact percentage. Perhaps we could pin this on the sinker, but do remember that the changeup isn’t getting as many whiffs at it did last season. Instead of Minor having two plus pitches with the change and curve, he now has only one. He throws a cutter as well, but it is league average in both groundballs and whiffs.
The promising discovery here is that Minor has managed to cut down on the fly balls. It would help a bit more if he wasn’t giving up so many line drives, however. As you can see, the HR/FB rate is very high. Normally, you would expect that to change, but when your fastball isn’t apparently all that great, it can’t be a given.
So, what is the good news? Well, Minor’s velocity hasn’t changed. Considering he is coming back from shoulder woes, that’s a positive. The movement on his pitches seems similar to that of the past. His release point isn’t drastically different when compared to 2013. And his walk and strikeout rates are still above average and aren’t far off from what he has done last season. He is still limiting the walks and striking people out and that should be enough reason to give owners hope. Does that mean luck is playing a key role? His 3.63 SIERA lends that as a possibility. At the same time, Marco Estrada has underperformed his SIERA plenty throughout his career because of his long ball issues. Again, we can relate that back to the lack of a good fastball. Whether it is location, velocity, or movement, it is plaguing both Estrada and Minor.
What appears to be going on is a transitional period. Maybe Minor has lost some confidence in the four-seamer. Or maybe his only salvation is to develop an above average sinker much like Yovani Gallardo has achieved. At this point, it is going to be difficult to get much in a trade and in most competitive leagues, dropping Minor will likely bring you limited benefits. He has a good curveball and in the past, has shown us a swing-and-miss changeup. These skills can still make him an effective pitcher, but maybe we shouldn’t expect a repeat of last season’s performance moving forward. At least not until that sinker improves. Sometimes, the best option is to wait out a struggling player and in this case, that looks to be the best choice.he more you suffer, the more it shows you really care. Right? Yeah.