Dropping velocity, a lot of walks, and some bad batted ball luck were major factors in Masterson’s slow start, and all three continue to be an issue. But the walks are the real cause for concern.
For his career, Masterson has posted a 9.4% walk rate. In his stellar 2013 season, it was 9.5%. This year it is up to 11.7%. In the earlier article I noted that there may be a mechanical issue and that, considering Masterson’s past performance, it was reasonable to assume he’d get the walks in control.
And for April, he did, posting a 9.3% walk rate. In May, that jumped to 12.4%. In June, 16.1%. Not exactly the signs of someone getting their walks in control.
At the same time his walks have increased, Masterson’s strike out rate has decreased, and while everyone is talking about his lost velocity, the lost control is really the problem here.
Hitters are being slightly more patient against Masterson this year, swinging at 27.2% of pitches outside the zone vs. 28.5% last year, despite little change in their swing rate on pithes in the zone. They are also making contact less often, primarily in this case on pitches inside the zone, leading to an increased swinging strike rate. He’s even getting in front of hitters slightly more often.
But as a pitcher with a 52.4% zone% for his career (51.4% last year), his in ability to find the plate (48.7% this year) is extremely worrisome.
What you are left with is a guy who, decreased velocity and all, is getting just as many swinging strikes, is getting his customary near-60% GB rate, but who simply cannot consistently find the catcher’s glove.
The problem is, there does not seem to be an end in sight for Masterson’s struggles. Decreased velocity and lost control usually suggest an injury, but both Masterson and the team say he is physically fine. There was talk of a mechanical issue earlier in the year, but so far no sign that it has been fixed.
The problem for fantasy owners is that the upside, which we saw last year, is elite. Particularly in ottoneu 4×4 and Points leagues, which absolutely punish guys who give up HR, a high-K, low-HR workhorse is a huge asset. But right now, Masterson is simply unusable.
In deeper leagues, where you can’t really trade him right now, you are well within your rights to hold him and hope for a turn-around or a DL stint (yes, I actually think that right now a DL stint would be GREAT news for Masterson owners, as it would suggest a reason for his struggles and a potential path towards improvement). But in my one shallow league (12 teams, 25 man rosters), Masterson is on his way off the team.
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