Fredi Gonzalez is smarter than you.
Sure, he decimated the bullpen in 2011 (something he has corrected in 2012). He's not a particularly brilliant tactician either, and I might tend to agree with John Smoltz with regards to whom the Braves should start in the Wild Card Showdown.
But there is one man who has made Fredi Gonzalez look like an absolute genius the entire second half of the season, simultaneously making a very large portion of Braves Country look very, very silly.
His name? Michael David Minor.
By all means, Braves fans were right to be frustrated with Minor earlier this season. Before the All-Star Break, Minor compiled a 5.97 ERA over 92 innings, giving up 40 walks and an astounding 19 home runs. That's a season-total for most pitchers.
The abhorrently awful statistics don't stop there. Minor could not find the strike zone in the first half of the season, posting walk rates of 4.62 and 5.53 in May and June, walking 10.5 and 14.1 percent of opposing hitters, respectively (or not so respectively).
Minor's May WHIP was 1.89. His May and June FIPs? 8.24 and 5.78.
He was, in a word, terrible.
Fredi Gonzalez didn't care though. Amidst all of the pleadings of Braves fans to send Minor down to Triple-A Gwinnett, Gonzalez kept plugging Minor into the starting rotation. Every once in a while, he would flash potential of the pitcher he could be, examples being his April 14 and 19 starts (15.1 innings, 13 strikeouts, one walk, one run) and June 12 (7.1 innings, 4 strikeouts, one walk, one run).
He must have seen an internal change in Minor, because the Mike Minor of the second half has been an entirely different act than the erratic homer-prone charade he performed before the All-Star Break.
In 81 innings since the Mid-Summer Classic, Minor has compiled an eye-widening 2.33 ERA with 16 walks and a more earthly seven home runs. His opponents have reached base at less than a 25 percent clip and have OPSed .577.
There's more. His August strikeout rate is perplexingly low, but July and September saw him strike out more than 8.5 hitters per nine innings—pretty strong for a lefty with a 91 mile an hour fastball. He compiled monthly FIPs of 3.55, 3.73, and 2.91, posted monthly WHIPs of 0.73, 1.10, and 0.77, and tallied July and August walk rates of 1.32 and 1.27.
Minor's dominance has not only cemented him a spot in the Braves 2012 postseason rotation, but also his future with the club. It was only this previous offseason that Minor had been rumored to be on the trading block, with the Mets as the most interested suitors.
Now, it seems as if Minor has transformed himself into a strike-throwing machine, wielding a very good fastball when paired with his very good secondary pitches. He may not be the second coming of Tommy Glavine, but Mike Minor has a bright future with the Braves, as he looks to be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.
And Fredi Gonzalez is enjoying every minute of it.
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