Mike Minor's ERA still looks ugly, at 5.01. His 22 home runs allowed still lead the league. But Minor doesn't seem to be letting his poor first half bother him, and for the past four starts he has put together an impressive run that has left those who have always believed in him feeling vindicated.
Which pitcher would you have traded for at the deadline, when comparing their July numbers?
Pitcher A: 4 of 4 Quality Starts, 1.98 ERA, .172 BAA, 26 SO in 27.1 IP
Pitcher B: 3 of 4 Quality Starts, 2.74 ERA, .230 BAA, 17 SO in 23 IP
Pitcher-A is the better option, and Minor gave the Braves the luxury of not having to trade for rental Pitcher-B (Dempster), by putting up better numbers over the last month. Before this run of four (now five including last night) good starts, Minor had pitched himself to a 6.20 ERA his first 15 times on the mound this season. With the turnaround from burden on the rotation, to a quality start machine, it's as if the Braves traded for a top-of-the-rotation starter.
From Minor's rain-shortened start last night against the Fish, it seems as though his strong July will continue into August. If he can continue this good run down the stretch, that means that the Braves will have effectively replaced four-fifths of their rotation in the past month.
Minor is the same guy, but his results have been different enough to think that he's a different pitcher. Randall Delgado was replaced by Ben Sheets, Tommy Hanson was replaced by Kris Medlen, and Jair Jurrjens will be replaced by Paul Maholm. In the Braves effort to upgrade their club, did anyone have any idea that they would change their rotation this much, and improve it so much at the same time.
But the best kind of starting rotation change is if a team can fix the parts in place, without having to go outside of the rotation for help. Minor is the lone success story on the team this year. Jurrjens failed to significantly improve, Hanson's incredible luck began to catch up to him, and Delgado, while good at times, could not harness the constancy that Minor was able to find.
This rebuilt rotation will be one of the most important factors to the Braves success in the final two months of the season. If they can continue their solid work, then Atlanta should be able to mount a successful run at reclaiming the National League East pennant. It's been seven years since the Baby Braves took Atlanta by storm and won the team's last NL East pennant. This year's team is ten times better than they were, and now, with the help of their rotation, they're finally starting to prove it.