Masterson’s Shine

Entering last night’s start against the Boston Red Sox, Justin Masterson was 1-5 with a 5.46 ERA. His peripherals suggested he was a better pitcher than those old timey numbers gave him credit for. So how did Masterson respond while facing his old team but by causing his pitched baseballs to eat more grass than a sick dog. Yes, even more than his usual 62% groundball rate. Here’s his line:

9 IP
2 H
0 ER
6 SO
2 BB
110 Pitches
75 Strikes

That doesn’t tell the entire story though. Here’s the real beef:

21 BIP
17 GB
3 FB
1 LD

That’s 21 balls in play and 17 groundballs –- or 81% — unsurprisingly this left the Red Sox without an extra base hit on the night. The most ridiculous aspect of the night is that Masterson allowed two of those fly balls in the ninth inning. That means that through eight innings and 26 batters –- or nearly three times through the lineup — roughly 90% of the Red Sox’s balls in play were of the groundball variety.

The most surreal aspect is how this marks Masterson’s fifth start this season with a groundball rate over 70% and yet it’s not his highest rate this year. In fact, he’s only allowed more fly balls and line drives than grounders in one start all season; and even then his GB% was 46%. In a May 19th start against Kansas City Masterson faced 23 batters and had 14 of 16 balls in play pound the ground. Against the Orioles days earlier he’d allowed 20 balls in play with 15 being grounders. Then there was his outing against the Yankees two starts ago, where 13 of 28 batters faced hit grounders. That’s almost half the batters he faced, and they all smacked the ball into the earth.

Compare that to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 17 strikeout performance versus Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night and one wonders which the more frusturating style of defeat is. Sure, fanning 17 times as a lineup is more embarrassing, perhaps humiliating, but at least the guy throwing at you for seven innings was straight out of a nightmare.

To drop some analogies on this thing, Masterson carefully placed the carrot in front of rabbits, but only in locations where they could nibble on it, never allowing for a solid chomp. Strasburg never let the rabbit feel as though he had a real shot at biting that carrot. Or, in more simplistic and gory terms: Masterson’s approach resembles death via a thousand papercuts, whereas Strasburg prefers headshots.

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8 Responses to “Masterson’s Shine”

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  1. Michael says:

    I guess this also speaks to the fact there are alot of RHBs in the BoSox lineup.

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    • Dirty Water says:

      That would be accurate if not for the fact that Masterson faced 5 LHB last night.

      I’ll say it again: VMart for Masterson, Hagedone and Price is going to look mighty stupid in 2-3 years. Rip Off!

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    • Cronus says:

      Ortiz, V-Mart, Drew, Hermida, and Riddick all bat either on the left or switch. Leaving 4 right handers in the line up. On a personal level I don’t consider 4 righties as a lot for lineup. Even if you do, who’s fault really is that? If there is one team that should have Masterson scouted the best (outside of the Indians) it’s the Red Soxs.

      I agree with Dirty Water. The Soxs are going to have some buyers remorse in the coming years.

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      • Rich says:

        4 righties, one of which (Youk) hits righties much better than lefties (.921 ops career)

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      • Steven Ellingson says:

        Yes, but the Youk’s numbers are against average righties with average splits, on average. Not a guy who turns from pre-2010 Carlos Silva to Roy Halladay when he faces a RHB.

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  2. pft says:

    What was more impressive was that Masterson had a rather smallish strike zone to work with against a very patient team. The strike zone in the Strasburg game was on the large side and got the Pirates to chase a bunch of balls out of the zone.

    As a Red Sox fan I don’t regret the trade, since V-Mart has done well and filled a big hole, but agree that Masterson might have us 2nd guessing it in a couple of years.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    Guys that throw from the side are generally murder on same-handed batters, and are most often relief specialists … For the obvious reasons of the ball being harder to pick up and the ball tailing in (away from the barrel). Bull Durham quotes aside, I have an affinity for high GB pitchers … Chalk it up to watching John Tudor get a lot of groundouts to The Wizard with “borderline ML stuff”.

    The question to me if what did Masterson do differently this game than others? The diff in results is obvious, but why?

    Was he using a sinker more? Did he keep the ball down more? Get ahead in the count more? Use a slider or cutter to get in on lefties? Feature a change more to lefties? … With the answer to those questions arriving at the most important question “Will he be able todo it consistently.

    FWIW, Masterson is very hard to hit on MLB10: The Show. *grin*

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    • jswede says:

      Masterson changed his arm angle — coming more ‘over the top’, so the ball moves on a plane less in-line with lefties’ bats… which was the major problem previously — the ball moved jsut as much against lefties, but it was moving on in the same plane as the bat low int he zone.

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