During Spring Training, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor engaged in a battle for the fifth starter's spot in the rotation. In the end, Beachy won the spot, but Minor played a major role himself. Beachy had himself a rookie year to remember, solidifying the back end of the rotation with a 3.68 ERA and leading all NL rookies, as well as his own team, with 169 strikeouts; only Seattle's Michael Pineda struck out more as a rookie.
Minor was no slouch, either. He was beat up in his first start of the season April 6, but the Braves won eight of his next nine starts, including seven in a row in which Minor was 4-0 with 41 strikeouts in 39.2 innings despite a 4.08 ERA.
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||7-3||25||25||0||0||0||0||141.2||125||62||58||16||46||169||3.68||1.21|
A strong outing in his season debut left little doubt Beachy was the better choice to be the fifth starter, but after a couple of mediocre outings, he finally earned his first major-league win in his fourth start of the season April 19. Beachy was putting together an impressive rookie season when he suddenly suffered an oblique injury in his May 13 start against the Phillies, sidelining him for a month. When he returned, it was with a vengeance: 11 strikeouts in six innings of a 5-1 win over Toronto June 22, setting a new personal high for a single game. Six innings was Beachy's usual limit; in only four of his 25 starts did he pitch into the seventh inning and beyond, but a high number of strikeouts will do that. After all, he did lead all Braves starters with 10.7 K/9. His 3.67 K/BB ratio is bested only by his rookie closer and is fourth among all MLB rookies; Beachy is the only starter in the top five in that category. He finished the season with nine straight starts with at least seven strikeouts.
One negative against Beachy is that he led the team with 11 wild pitches. He also surrendered 16 home runs, second on the team only to Tommy Hanson. Those home runs are the result of his 45.2 FB%, fifth-highest among all rookie starters and the highest of anyone in the rotation. Otherwise, his rookie season went quite well. Both his FIP (3.19) and his skill-independent ERA (2.79) were the lowest among all the Braves starters; his SIERA topped ALL rookie starters while his FIP ranked second. In 14 quality starts, he posted a 1.86 ERA. Unfortunately, the Braves had a losing record in his starts (11-14), losing his last five in a row and were 4-11 in his no-decisions.
For the season, Beachy held opposing hitters to a .236/.301/.378 mark and actually pitched better away from Turner Field, holding hitters to a .220 avg. and posting a 3.34 ERA in 12 road starts as opposed to a .252 avg. and 4.02 ERA at home.
|2011 - Mike Minor||5-3||15||15||0||0||0||0||82.2||93||39||38||7||30||77||4.14||1.49|
Minor was the odd man out when the season began, but started in place of a DL'd Jair Jurrjens April 6. He made 31 total starts between Gwinnett and Atlanta, posting a 3.22 ERA in 16 minor-league starts. Once Jurrjens returned from the DL, Minor was sent back down, but returned when Beachy injured an oblique muscle in May. Three times the Braves recalled Minor during the season and provided decent numbers in the absence of Beachy, Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, posting a 3.92 ERA since June 11. After the ASB, Minor was 4-1 in nine starts with a 3.83 ERA. His work wasn't all pretty, but he gave his team opportunities to win; the Braves were 10-5 in his starts, three of them where he dazzled:
- June 21 vs. Toronto: Minor earned his first win of the season with only one run allowed and eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 5-1 win.
- August 18 vs. San Francisco: Minor struck out a season-high nine in six innings, outlasting Tim Lincecum in a 1-0 win.
- September 3 vs. Los Angeles: Minor struck out seven in six innings, allowing only one run, but received no decision in a 2-1, 10-inning loss.
Like Beachy, Minor was a strikeout pitcher but was more hittable. Minor's 10.1 hits/9 are second only to the recently-traded Derek Lowe, yet he recorded a 74.4 LOB%, just slightly higher than that of Beachy (74.2). He was also very stingy with the home run ball: he didn't allow a home run until his 10th start of the season August 23 before suddenly giving up six in September, three of those six in one game including one that probably hasn't landed yet. His 8.4 K/9 ranked fifth among all rookie starters and was fourth in FIP (3.39) with a SIERA of 3.76. Minor was also better than Beachy in his home ballpark, posting a 3.10 ERA in seven home starts as opposed to his ugly 5.14 road ERA. He, too was limited in innings: his seven-inning start against Toronto being the only start to last that long. In none of his starts did he throw 100 pitches, twice throwing 99 pitches.
Beachy certainly pitched like he deserves a rotation spot in 2012; his performance has him being considered as a dark horse candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year, but Minor certainly held his own. However, he would have to beat out Teheran and Delgado for the final rotation spot next year assuming Hanson and/or Jurrjens aren't traded over the winter.