Masterson Impresses

Fantastic pitching match-up last night in Cleveland as Carson Cistulli’s boy toy — Colby Lewis – faced off against the Indians’ big return on Victor Martinez. Justin Masterson is only 24 years old, but it feels like he’s been around longer. In limited time as a starter last season, I have him posting a FIP around 4.24. For comparison’s sake, qualified starting pitchers around that mark last season included Matt Garza, Jonathan Sanchez, and Zach Duke. Not too bad for someone who transitioned to the rotation full-time midway through the season.

Masterson had his A-game going last night. His final line included six innings, nine strikeouts, ten groundballs, seven fly balls and line drives, and zero walks. He did give up a home run to Nelson Cruz, but who isn’t giving up hits to him at this point? Regardless, that’s still a really, really good start. Pitchfx data has Masterson throwing mostly sinkers (61), with four-seamers (30) and sliders (15) mixed in. Here are the whiff breakdowns by pitch type:

4FB: 10%
SNK: 11.5%
SLD: 6.7%

This isn’t the only time Masterson has racked up whiffs on his arsenal, either. Last season, he held a contact percentage of 79%, and his career rate is a better-than-average 78.6%. That number is probably aided by his time spent in the pen, but it’s hard to tell it so far. And yes, as you would suspect, the sinker ball-tossing Masterson gets some grounders. His career rate is just shy of 54%.

Gets whiffs, gets groundballs, and throws strikes. That’s a combination to work with. Dave Cameron compared Masterson’s upside to Gil Meche when the Indians acquired him. He’s actually pitched better than that, but the point remains. The quality of the remainder of Cleveland’s package is still up in the air, but Masterson should stay grounded in the Indians’ rotation for years to come.

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6 Responses to “Masterson Impresses”

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  1. NadavT says:

    Great post, but you left out one important point — Masterson’s extreme platoon split. The sample is tiny so far, but his FIP against lefties is currently twice as high as his FIP against righties. In last night’s game, he gave up two singles and a HR (to Cruz) to righties, while striking out 9, and two singles and two doubles to lefties while striking out 0. If he faces a lineup with more lefty or switch-hitting power hitters than he faced in either Texas or Chicago, I’d expect his results to look much worse.

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  2. Wimbley says:

    NadavT hit the nail on the head. He gets pounded by lefties. If he can develop a pitch that’s somewhat tough on lefties, he has #2 SP potential. If not, he will settle in as a back of the rotation starter that is good on some nights, shaky on others. He could even move back to the bullpen.

    Hopefully, the former comes true and he can improve against lefties…

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    • R M says:

      That seems a little extreme to me.

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    • R M says:

      Actually, more than a little extreme. He had a 4.57 FIP against lefties last year. This causes him to fall from #2 pitcher to back-end starter or even reliever in your mind? Ridiculous. I think you’re weighing this one game far too much. He’s not going to get clobbered by lefties that badly every game.

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  3. Chris says:

    Yesterday during the chat I asked Dave if he thought Masterson could be the real deal after his first start this season… Unfortunately I didn’t receive a response to my question. This however, seems to help ease any fears that I had (and his great start last night!). Though it does worry me that the three lefties in the Texas lineup last night (Borbon, Hamilton, Davis) combined to go 7/13 with 3 RBI.

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  4. pounded clown says:

    SInkerballers are the Honda Accord of pitchers… reliable but not too sexy and the lack of K’s usually relegates them to the middle of the rotation. If the K’s keep coming he could very well be a sinkerballer that belongs to the Acura class at the top of the rotation. Plus he’s on my fantasy team. I just hope he doesn’t Carmona on Cleveland…that town has suffered enough.

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