In the world of baseball, managers often find themselves in the crosshairs of fans’ criticism. They are hailed as heroes only when their team wins the World Series, but if they fall short, no matter how exceptional of a job they do, they are often the scapegoats. Atlanta Braves fans have not been shy in expressing their frustrations towards manager Brian Snitker, but amidst the scrutiny, Snitker remains the unwavering leader this talented Braves team needs.
One notable aspect where Snitker excels is his patience with his players, and the recent success story of A.J. Minter is a testament to this. Minter’s journey in Major League Baseball has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. When he burst onto the scene in 2017 at the age of 23, many believed he would be the left-handed version of Craig Kimbrel. He showed promise, even serving as the Braves’ closer at times in 2018, but then came the tumultuous 2019 season.
In 2019, Minter struggled mightily, posting a discouraging 7.06 ERA over 36 appearances. His performance declined to the point where he was demoted to AAA and was even left off the roster for the 2019 NLDS. The following year, during the shortened 2020 season, Minter seemed to have found his groove, boasting a remarkable 0.83 ERA over 22 appearances. However, as fans returned to the stands in 2021, Minter’s struggles resurfaced.
Minter’s 2021 campaign started well, but his ERA skyrocketed towards 5.00 by late July, leading to another demotion to Gwinnett. Nevertheless, he bounced back once again and became one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball, contributing significantly to the Braves’ triumphant World Series title in 2021. Building on that success, Minter enjoyed the best season of his career in 2022, emerging as the league’s most valuable lefty reliever with a stellar 2.06 ERA and 12.1 K/9 over 70.1 innings.
However, the beginning of the 2023 season brought some doubts from many about Minter’s consistency, except for one person: Brian Snitker. Following a rough outing against the Blue Jays on May 13th, where Minter gave up a couple of runs in a Braves loss, Snitker called Minter into his office with a message that changed the course of his season.
“Hey, I’m gonna keep throwing you out there,” Snitker assured Minter, as reported by Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Consistuation. “Everything that’s been going this way, it’s been unlucky. But don’t lose confidence because I’m going to keep putting you in those situations.”
At that time, Minter carried an unimpressive 8.05 ERA. While his FIP of 3.07 suggested positive regression, advanced stats alone wouldn’t be enough to reignite his confidence. It was Snitker’s unwavering support and belief in his abilities that made the difference.
And indeed, it did change the game. Since that conversation, Minter has been exceptional, recording a 1.77 ERA over 17 appearances. Opponents have struggled against him, hitting just .157 with a .464 OPS, while Minter has struck out 19 batters over 15.2 innings. And those numbers have been even better as of late, owning a 0.77 ERA over his last 13 appearances.
Thanks to the faith instilled by his manager, A.J. Minter has once again become one of the premier left-handed relievers in baseball. What’s remarkable is that Minter didn’t need to overhaul his mechanics or spend time in the minors to regain his form. All it took was a little bit of faith from Brian Snitker, a quality that many Braves players can attribute to their manager.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire