Numbers suggest Minor hasn’t been quite as bad as all that

A kick of the leg, a flip of the wrist ... but what's the xFIP? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

A kick of the leg, a flip of the wrist ... but what's the xFIP? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

In the light of Mike Minor’s latest strange outing — he yielded five hits in six innings, but four were home runs — I thought I’d pass along some data presented by Red Reporter in its preview of the Reds-Braves series. (Warning: If your eyes glaze over at the mention of sabermetrics, cease and desist reading.) My two favorites:

That Minor has a left-on-base percentage that’s off the charts, and not in a good way.

That Minor, who now carries an ERA of 6.97, has, at least according to one key stat-geek metric, pitched almost as well as Brandon Beachy, whose 1.33 ERA leads the majors.

The metric in question is xFIP, and it stands for expected fielding independent pitching. Here’s the simple definition — actually, it’s not all that simple — from the really useful site FanGraphs: “ Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.” (And the “x” for expected adds a mathematical wrinkle that seeks to measure how many home runs a pitcher should have allowed.)

(An aside: Numbers-crunchers insist there are only Three True Outcomes of a given plate appearance — a home run, a strikeout or a walk. Everything else is subject to the vagaries of fielding, positioning and luck. FIP and xFIP are attempts to flatten out the variables. I’d suggest that fielding can never be separated from the concept of pitching, but maybe that’s just me.)

Back to Minor: Before Monday’s start, his xFIP was 3.82; Beachy’s was 3.83. (In xFIP as in golf, the lower the number the better.) This is at odds with what we’ve actually seen — Beachy has been dominant all season, Minor all but helpless of late — but that’s kind of the point of these metrics. They attempt to remove the eyeball test as a measure. I’m not sure you can do that, either, but let’s press on.

Returning to Red Reporter’s reportage: Minor’s  LOB percentage is terrible. With Monday’s start included, Minor has stranded only 42.1 percent of baserunners — the second-worst mark among big-league starting pitchers. (Vance Worley of the Phillies leads the majors, having seen only 10.4 percent of runners score.) And that, I would suggest, actually buttresses the findings relayed by our eyeballs: When Minor gets in trouble, he rarely wriggles free.

And that’s the difference between winning and losing. Minor’s strikeout rate per nine innings is a very good 8.1 — Beachy’s is 6.5 — but only 22.7 percent of baserunners have scored against Beachy. One has managed to control whatever damage is done; the other hasn’t. You wouldn’t have expected that Beachy, who wasn’t drafted, would have mastered this essential technique ahead of Minor, who was taken No. 7 overall in 2009, but that only goes to show: Baseball is a funny game.

Sabermetricians will use those two sets of stats to suggest that Minor really hasn’t been as bad as his record indicates and that Beachy hasn’t been as good, but I’m leery of such conclusions. As much as I enjoy checking the numbers, I’m of the opinion that pitching is a zero-sum game: The more zeroes a pitcher posts — by whatever means — the better.

By Mark Bradley

107 comments Add your comment

Yogi Berra

May 22nd, 2012
1:48 pm

One word. Long Term Capital Management.

West Coast Wreck

May 22nd, 2012
1:49 pm

Minor’s HRs allowed last night are a good case study in which both Advanced Stats and the Eyeball test can come together well to tell a better story than either by themselves. Minor certainly did not put the ball in good locations on 3 of the 4 HRs allowed. However, most of the time a batter doesn’t hit mistakes THAT well, but there is certainly a higher probability of it happening. However, the distances on the 4 HR balls were 377, 389, 391, and 418. The first 3 HRs were largely a product of Cincinnati’s ballpark. Those first 3 HRs would not have even cleared the fence in 14, 14, and 16 other major league ball parks respectively. That is unlucky. However, even being unlucky, the probability of the balls being hit that hard are because the pitches were very hittable pitches.

P Rose

May 22nd, 2012
1:52 pm

“…and they give you cash, which is just as good as money.” –HUH??

Supes

May 22nd, 2012
1:56 pm

The Braves can’t afford to have both DELGADO and MINOR “learning” and “taking their beatings” up here in the big leagues while CONTENDING for the NL EAST.

That’s the bottom line. They can ENDURE 1 of those “learning up here” as a 5th starter but NOT both. Something MUST BE DONE very soon, we are in a VERY competitive division. Every game counts, even the ones in April and May! There must be more urgency from WREN, he needs to remove the ability of Fredi to use one of the two by demoting to AAA, and or making a trade or bringing up JJ (at some point if he’s found himself back or close to his form)

what of it?

May 22nd, 2012
1:57 pm

In other words, Minor doesn’t have composure or mental discipline. Glad they found a statistical way to represent what anyone who watches the game understands.

Lewis Grizzard

May 22nd, 2012
2:02 pm

They should come up with some sort of sabermetrics that reveal the level of idiocy on internet forums. This one, with its plastic experts and bumbling blowhards would most definitely be off the charts….and not in a good way. The ONLY way for a young pitcher to get better is to pitch against major league competition. Minor has already proven he can pitch, nothing any of the baseball challenged wahoos can say will change that….you can’t push the panic button every time a young pitcher gets into a few weeks of below par results. Medlen is fine in his role. This isn’t fantasy baseball….stop treating it like it is.

fireRicht

May 22nd, 2012
2:02 pm

Brandon, totally agreed. i am tired of seeing mediocrity in this town’s sports scene

JWOOD

May 22nd, 2012
2:05 pm

I think Minor looked better last night. I know he gave up 4 home runs, but he pitched out of trouble when he had men on base, and he came back from those homers to throw some better baseball. I think he will turn the corner very soon.

Durrtydogg

May 22nd, 2012
2:06 pm

I think the comparisons to Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux are a little unfair. The Braves are in first place and are contenders. During Glavine and Smoltz early years the Braves were horrible and they didnt have the ceiling they have now. This is Chippers last year. The Braves are winning and putting two pitchers out there to take there lumps is maybe asking a little too much. Minor should be doing better. Its just as simple as that. And the more we hark on Fredi, the more Roger gets a pass. Fredi didnt bring Roger in. He was already here. I dont think Fredi is the best manager in the world, thats for sure, but I think Roger needs to step up and be more assertive with these guys. Either that or trade JJ to free up some money and sign a veteran to step in and take one of those spots. We are not in a position to wait on two pitchers to get it together.

The Walrus

May 22nd, 2012
2:06 pm

“An aside: Numbers-crunchers insist there are only Three True Outcomes of a given plate appearance — a home run, a strikeout or a walk. Everything else is subject to the vagaries of fielding, positioning and luck.”

Aren’t strikeouts and walks somewhat dependent upon luck as well, considering that each umpire tends to have his own strike zone?

bfred

May 22nd, 2012
2:24 pm

Unless xFIP takes into account groundball / line drive / fly ball stats, I don’t see how it’s much use. As Minor so capably demonstrated, fly balls can clear the fence. Ground balls cannot. That’s why everybody loves Hudson and his ultra-heavy sinker – he was 4th in the NL (behind Derek Lowe!) in ground ball / fly ball ratio last year. Minor is currently 68th.

FWIW, Beach is only 49th so some correction is likely to take place.

stevie zero

May 22nd, 2012
2:30 pm

we ABSOLUTELY need medlin in the rotation. how many times do we have to get destroyed every 5th day until FG figures that out. mercy

Delbert D.

May 22nd, 2012
2:51 pm

How about “home run-dependent losing?”

Heisenberg

May 22nd, 2012
3:08 pm

So maybe Minor should never pitch from stretch. Let them steal. Focus on getting hitters out and have fewer innings with crooked numbers.

Tucker

May 22nd, 2012
3:29 pm

Someone call the Gwinnett outlet for Welcome Wagon.

space monkey

May 22nd, 2012
3:34 pm

I like Minor. But this is why stats are usually full of half truths. The way Minor pitched last night, he’s lucky he didn’t lose 14-1. Reds were all over the bases. He just got lucky a lot. Terrible pitch selection (Is that McCann?) and terrible execution. He was so good earlier this year. Now he just has to learn to keep the ball down and not throw such fat pitches when he has two strikes. More breaking pitches would be a really good idea.

bruce

May 22nd, 2012
3:36 pm

so is he tipping pitches from the stretch?

Old Dog

May 22nd, 2012
3:49 pm

Mark: You have convinced me – Just go ahead and dump Beachy and sign Minor to a long contract. Yeah, right.

Maybe we should extend McDumb, I mean McDowell’s contract, he’s doing such a good job. I wonder what he says to the pitchers when he visits the mound. Maybe, “come on guys, you’re making me look bad” or the famous quote, “you’re flying open and draggin’ your arm.”

reckingball

May 22nd, 2012
3:58 pm

You know, other than 4 of the 5 hits that Minor gave up, being solo HRs, the 4 walks, and the high pitch count of 113 after 6 innings,
Minor did fairly good. At least, he didn’t walk the runners and then give up the HRs. haha.
go braves

Jim Pierce

May 22nd, 2012
3:59 pm

Here are my sabermetrics:

Minor: 2-4 , given up 12 HRs and a team leading 43 runs in 53 innings, with an era of 6.96.

Conclusion: No other numbers matter.

Roadsterron

May 22nd, 2012
4:02 pm

I wonder how many more “Gopher Balls” and losses by a guy that only impersonates a pitcher will it take for the organization to realize that HE IS NO GOOD!!!! Give Medlin the ball and give Minor his ticket to AAA. I don’t thin the outcome could be any worse!!!

TheFalcon

May 22nd, 2012
4:12 pm

Mike Minor is the man! However, pitching is very clutch and you have to be able to do it in clutch situations. As Chip and Joe mentioned the last time he pitched that he is having problems pitching out of the stretch (with runners on base). The hitters seem to be seeing the ball well out of his hand. This is just an adjustment. If he makes the adjustment I think he’ll be fine. Last night was a fluke when he gave up 4 home runs. The good news is they were all solo shots? Bad news is..he was not in the stretch.

crackbaby

May 22nd, 2012
4:14 pm

Mike Minor should be alright in the long run. Braves lost yesterday because they only scored 1 run. Stop blaming Minor. Sending him to AAA is not going to help his mental makeup.

He is the ONLY left handed starter. He was brilliant earlier in the year. Just chill and re-evaluate after another 4 starts. One thing that should be thoroughly evaluated is his health. Is he hiding an injury?

Go Braves.

Tom G (Independent - Viet Vet)

May 22nd, 2012
4:16 pm

I guess we could always ship him to Cleveland, where D Lowe is 6-2 and a 2.15 ERA! How can Lowe make such a turnaround?

crackbaby

May 22nd, 2012
4:19 pm

In my opinion, Venters recent performance should be of greater concern than Minor’s. Johnny V has lost his mechanics or something.

[...] Numbers suggest Minor hasn’t been quite as bad as all that [...]

Home of the Braves

May 22nd, 2012
4:28 pm

How can you possibly put a positive spin on Minor when his ERA is 6.97?

rc35

May 22nd, 2012
4:29 pm

Arguing that the Braves need Minor is like arguing that the world’s electrical grid needs Chernobyl.

BravesWin

May 22nd, 2012
4:29 pm

Note to Bradley: Minor HAS been that bad. Typical column from you, Mark. You’re that bad, too.

Tom G (Independent - Viet Vet)

May 22nd, 2012
4:38 pm

crackbaby – Unfortunately, I have to agree with you 100%!!!!!!!!

West Coast Wreck

May 22nd, 2012
4:41 pm

Derek Lowe is nothing more than the one of the luckiest pitcher in baseball this season. If you chart the league ERA leaders, then look at their respective WHIPs, Lowe’s 1.41 is by far the worst of the bunch. Lowe has been insanely lucky so far this year and is due for massive regression and a increase in ERA. you can’t allow nearly 1 and half batters to reach base per inning and continue to have an ERA of 2.15. Luck manifests itself much more frequently given a small sample size and that’s all Lowe has been this year. Lucky

Randall

May 22nd, 2012
4:57 pm

Greg Maddux and Mike Minor have almost the same ERA after their first 30 games. Minor does have a lot of promise.

Business Man

May 22nd, 2012
5:23 pm

90% of pitching is mental, the other half is in your head.

b casey

May 22nd, 2012
5:27 pm

The Braves problem is Management when they make out the lineup. They DON’T have a 4th place cleanup hitter. Also, if they think that guy playing 3rd will replace chipper, they are crazy. The back up shortstop is a joke.

Nerdville

May 22nd, 2012
5:33 pm

Minor has become a MAJOR problem.

Stinger 2

May 22nd, 2012
5:42 pm

The MAJOR problem. is fans who have MINOR brains and know nothing except how to complain after a loss when their team is in first place in its division.

mrb

May 22nd, 2012
5:44 pm

After reading your article, Mark, I’ve lost what little belief I ever had in sabermetrics

Chief Noc-A-Homa

May 22nd, 2012
5:45 pm

I kept coming out of my teepee all night only to find it was the wrong team hitting the home runs. I heard Fredi Gonzalez say after the game that he saw growth in Moinor. The only growth I see in Minor is his ERA. The Braves can’t afford for Minor to learn how to pitch in the big leagues. Send him to Gwinnett to work on his curve ball and change up. Put Medlen back in the rotation and bring up Redmond or Gearin to work out of the pen.

Devildog

May 22nd, 2012
6:00 pm

It’s ONLY May. Patience.

Brandon W

May 22nd, 2012
6:02 pm

@ Brandon…pretty good analysis …Minor being left handed is the one saving grace he has right now and one good start could turn it around. He is slow to adjust and Bobby Cox’s treatment 2 yrs ago was justified. I say give him a little bit longer leash. Give him a few more starts before the pen. Livan or Medlin could start

drew

May 22nd, 2012
6:11 pm

Pay me what you pay Minor and I’ll pitch equally as poor!
It’s his JOB to pitch well and win games.
God I wish ballplayers understood what it’s like in the “real” world….

nobody

May 22nd, 2012
6:14 pm

Sorry but this is a dumb article. Ya sure if he didn’t give up home runs he would be a nice pitcher. But he DOES give up home runs. Sooooo. Ya. No bueno. I look at W-L. not xFIPXQYZHFJ

Steverino

May 22nd, 2012
6:14 pm

It is not unreasonable to predict that, left as a starter, Minor will end the season just above .500 with an ERA in the mid 4’s. There will be a stretch that intersects the All Star break when Minor will be dominant…arguably our most reliable starter. This trend will be followed by more “hard luck” month of May style performances, culminating in a clutch win in the last series of the season to help sew up the NL East title. At least that’s what it “says here”.

Chief Noc-A-Homa

May 22nd, 2012
6:21 pm

I kept coming out of my teepee last night to celebrate the home runs only to find it was the Reds hitting them. After the game, Fredi Gonzalez remarked that he saw a lot of growth in Minor. The only growth I see is in Minor’s ERA. The big leagues is not the place to learn how to pitch. The Braves need to send him to Gwinnett to work on his curve ball and change up. Move Medlen back to the starting rotation and call up Redmond or Gearin to work ut of the pen. Let Minor, Jurrjens and Tehren compete head-to-head in Gwinnett for the next opportunity in the bigs.

Disgusted

May 22nd, 2012
7:27 pm

Minor is a born loser like Jo Jo Reyes.

Jo Jo had a nice arm and stuff too and he could not get guys out, you can throw all the advanced stats out there but in the end, the team that gives you good old fashoned wins is the one that is in a position to win a championship.

Is the W-L record the end and be all for pitchers of course not, but when a guys gives up runs like this, he is not good enough.

Hillbilly D

May 22nd, 2012
9:30 pm

Please deliver baseball from the grasp of stat geeks and fantasy freaks.

Preach on, Brother.

KomaGawa

May 23rd, 2012
12:07 am

Mark, I don’t claim any superior knowledge on statistical analysis, but just as you are trying to leaven this half chawed loaf of Minor’s, I suggest that the same kinds of stats should be applied to an analysis of the Hawks, but curiously, and maybe I am wrong, but my gut tells me that you don’t go into the statistical detail on Drew, and the Hawks that you do with the Braves. You essentially ask us to cut some slack on Minor, AFTER you yourself fueled the stat-lless speculation in your previous art, “What to do with Minor…” Though I really doubt you will come back with a similar appeal on Drew and the Hawks, (after someone sends you the hypothetical stats for you to cut and paste) because, well, this is more of a baseball town….However perhaps you can explain why in your previous article “What to do with Minor….you didn’t context it with the possibility that he may not need anything done to him or for him that isn’t already being done behind the scenes, which you and I don’t know about.

crackbaby

May 23rd, 2012
10:40 am

So Beachy allowed 4 earned runs to the Reds last night in another loss. Y’all ready to run him off now, too?

urban redneck

May 23rd, 2012
3:21 pm

wow……….useless as teets on a boarhog.

Bob the Blogger

May 23rd, 2012
3:38 pm

In looking at some of Minor’s other stats, his hits allowed per 9 innings is less than last year. His walks per 9 innings is slightly less than last year. His HRs per 9 innings is over twice as high. This is consistant with what I see when he’s pitching – he’ll pitch good for a batter or two, sometimes an inning or two, then things unravel. He’ll get a batter 0-2, then walk him. He’ll get two quick outs, then get in trouble. He has certainly left his share of pitches over the plate, but I think he’s losing confidence at those key moments when he really needs to put someone away. I don’t know if he can learn how to finish off batters at AAA, but the Braves can’t let him squander the chance for a division title.