Maybe the Braves shouldn’t use A.J. Minter as a closer

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The Braves’ four-game win streak was snapped last night, as Brandon Nimmo hit a two-run walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth off A.J. Minter to give the Mets a 4-3 victory. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise splendid series, featuring stellar performances from the Braves pitching staff. However, the top storyline today is a fair one: why the hell does Brian Snitker ever send A.J. Minter out in the ninth inning to close games?

Typically, I don’t question the judgment of Snitker. He’s right much more often than he’s wrong, and fans fail to realize that managers can’t afford to manage all 162 games like it is October. Pierce Johnson is on the IL, while both Joe Jimenez and closer Raisel Iglesias were deemed unavailable after pitching in the first two games of the series.

A.J. Minter is by far the best reliever the Braves had available. For my money, he’s the best reliever on the entire team, and he’s up there with the best left-handed relievers in all of baseball. With that being said, it’s time to face one hard truth when it comes to Minter, he turns into 2020 Tommy Milton for the Braves every time he’s asked to close a game.

Minter has been asked to save two one-run games over the last two weeks, and both have ended the exact same way, with a two-run homer leaving the yard. The difference in his numbers this season when asked to pitch the 8th inning vs. the 9th inning is staggering.

8th inning: 11 appearances, 10.1 innings, 0.87 ERA, .307 OPS against

9th innings: 4 appearances, 1.2 innings, 21.60 ERA, 1.778 OPS against

Of course, the sample size this season is minuscule, but it’s been this way his entire career. The Braves attempted to make Minter their full-time closer in 2018-2019. He had some success originally, but the experiment eventually blew up, and he ended up back in AAA. It wasn’t until he was made a full-time set-up man in 2020 that Minter became the dominant reliever he is today.

For his career, A.J. Minter now has a 4.81 ERA when asked to pitch the ninth inning. In all other situations, his ERA is 3.35 or below. Up to this point, I find it hard to blame Brian Snitker for turning to his best reliever when his closer is down, but it’s also time to start putting some weight into these numbers. It’s difficult to justify sending him out there to close games any longer when the numbers are right there for everybody to see.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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