Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Justin Masterson: A Diamond in the Rough

Simply looking at his win-loss record, it would be easy to give up on Justin Masterson. The Akron Beacon Journal recently featured a story about Masterson with the title, “Pitcher’s futility streak goes on.” Beginning the season 0-4 to extending his winless streak to 14 starts dating back to last August, many observers have concluded that the Justin Masterson as a starter experiment has failed and that it is time for him to return to the bullpen. But, if you go deeper into the numbers, it is possible to conclude that rather than being a mediocre starter, Masterson might just be the unluckiest pitcher in baseball.

Justin Masterson is among the league leaders in a number of statistical categories that more accurately reflect what a pitcher is doing, rather than whether or not he has a good team behind him. For example, Masterson is one of only seven starters in the majors to average a 10 or more strike outs per nine innings(K/9), a list that, in addition to Masterson, includes Brandon Morrow, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Clayton Kershaw, Yovani Gallardo and Tommy Hanson. In addition, Masterson boasts a league leading 3.53 groundball to fly ball ratio, attracting groundballs on 58.8% of balls in play as opposed to line drives on only 24.6% of balls in play. Unfortunately, mostly as a result of a poor defense behind him, he has a league leading .412 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Making matters worse for Masterson is that he receives the leagues seventh lowest run support at 2.61 runs per nine innings.

The Cleveland Indians are clearly not a good team, but rather than being the goat that he is being made out to be by the Ohio media, Masterson might just be the diamond in the rough that the Indians thought he was when they traded Victory Martinez to the Red Sox for him and young prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price last July.

Personally, I have not lost an ounce of faith in Masterson's ability to be a dominant pitcher in the Major Leagues, whether it be as a starter or a reliever, although I am wondering what happened to the TTM cards I sent him over a month ago now.

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