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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.