Over at FanGraphs I wrote a post a few weeks back about when to worry about Mike Minor from a fantasy perspective. In short, the answer was "not now." Here is why.
Aside from the fact that Minor had an impressive performance despite the team losing on Monday evening against the Mets, there are numerous reasons to be confident in Minor going forward. For one, over the past two calendar years, Minor has a 3.24 ERA, the 17th best in all of baseball. For reference, "Ace" usually refers to the top 15 starters in baseball. So, judging by ERA, Minor has been just barely under "Ace" status since this point in 2012 -- which mind you includes his uninspiring start to this season.
While his overall career ERA of 3.99 is not world beating or anything close to it, one must consider the authentic adjustments and maturity that hit Minor in the summer of 2012. He began to focus on pounding the zone, which is why over the past two calendar years he has a 5.7% walk rate (21st best in baseball) while he totaled marks of 8.3% and 7.7% in all of 2011 and 2012 respectively (yes half of 2012 was included in the 5.7% walk rate over the past two calendar years).
Until I see some significant changes either in his velocity or his strikeout percentage minus his walk percentage, I am not going to think Minor has suddenly fallen off of a cliff. In looking at his SIERA, he has a 3.63 mark compared to last year's 3.56. He essentially has thrown the ball very similarly but has just seen more balls land for hits and more fly balls land over the fence.
Minor will always be a pitcher who gives up home runs, because he regularly is at or near the top of the league in fly ball percentage. This year, he is giving up a ton because of both the aforementioned and the fact that he has gotten a bit unlucky. He has a career home run per fly ball rate of 10.6% and this year his mark is 16.5%. That simply will not continue to be that high. I am not saying he will end up at 10% at the end of the year, but it is reasonable to expect a regression to the mean to which he records a roughly 10% home run per fly ball ratio over the remainder of the year.
Location is obviously what has caused issues in Minor's season so far. There is pounding the zone, and then there is leaving meatballs out there to be hammered. He has done the latter, judging solely by my eye test, more this year than he has last year. It is not as if solely bad luck is to blame for his season being so underwhelming so far, but he would not be striking out batters at this high of a rate if he were only tossing meatballs up there with each pitch. Again, if his strikeout rate were significantly lower, that is a very reasonable conclusion to reach, but as it is right in line with his career norms I do not think he is hanging pitches at a rate that should continually cause his home run per fly ball rate to be this inflated.
Here is what I expect to happen. Minor will pitch very well in the second half and everyone will then label him a "second half pitcher" since he had such a great tail end of 2012. When in fact what I expect will actually happen is that he will focus slightly more on the command of his pitches and record results similar to what we have seen over the past two calendar years, and that is really the only thing I think keeping him from being the type of pitcher we have be come accustomed to since he monumentally improved two seasons ago.
I am, probably more than anyone, a historical believer in Mike Minor. With that said, if there were legitimate scars on his peripheral statistics that caused me to be concerned -- such as a lack of strikeouts, a big increase in walks, or decreased velocity, I would be concerned about him going forward. Thankfully, none of those points have rung true yet. Until then, you should have at or close to the same amount of confidence in Minor stepping on the mound over the course of the rest of the season as you did all of last year.