Monday, May 23, 2011

A Legitimate Major League Starter?

Tonight we have an opportunity (while not watching the Bruins) to see a little bit of Justin Masterson.  Last time he was facing the Red Sox, he was struggling as a starter.  He beat the Red Sox, I'm pretty sure, but some of the same issues facing the pitcher when in Boston were following him to a bad Cleveland Indians team.  Bad splits against left-handed hitters and a strange, lower-than-usual delivery that makes the ball a lot easier to see as a lefty than as a righty.  Possibly destined to be a reliever, worse yet a ROOGY.  He was 7-20 from the trade to the end of the 2010 season.  He was taken out of the rotation in September.

He's now 5-2 as a starter and the Indians have the best record in the league.  This is great.  He was not in Portland for long when I was in Portland (he was promoted in like May), but what I gathered from the rest of the staff, the players I interacted with, and pretty much everyone, he seemed like he was the balls.  Not your typical adulterous scumbag that is native to professional sports.  Even when he was traded for Victor Martinez, I was hoping he'd succeed.  And it was a shame to see him struggle the way he did in 2009 and 2010.

Now, to the question I ask in the title:  The answer very well might be yes.  The lefty/righty splits were significant last year, but not THAT significant.  He did have trouble keeping lefties in the yard (a home run every 44 plate appearances) more so than righties (every 90 plate appearances), but he gave up 14 homers all season.  We're not talking about Josh Beckett 2006 (every 24) here.  The batting average splits were .290 versus .263 (Clay Buchholz is .276 versus .248, a 28 point differential compared to Masterson's 27-point differential).  The splits are not the problem.

A second argument in Masterson's favor:  Look at the ERA.  He was on some bad teams, probably a cause of the hideous 7-20 record.  He posted that 7-20 record with a bad, but not horrid 4.66 ERA.  You can go 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA or 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA, or make $16.5 million with a 5.24 ERA (like Lackey, Matsuzaka, and Burnett in 2010).  Not good, but not bad.  And in this case there's room for improvement.  Next argument.

Justin Masterson is 26 years old, one month older than me, one month younger than Pat, and exactly eighteen months and eleven days YOUNGER than young prospect centerfielder 46 who has so much upside and according to Lou Merloni may someday have the same tools as Carl Crawford.  (Crawford is 22 months and 26 days older than 46, for the record).  There are a lot of 26-year-old pitchers who are still trying to get everything together.  Further evidence that Masterson's still getting it together comes from the platoon splits again.  But this is with WALKS.  He walks lefties and doesn't walk righties.  The strike zone is the same no matter who's hitting.  This is the sign of someone still putting it together. 

My conclusion is that Justin Masterson isn't going to be a Hall of Famer, but will be a formidable Major League starter for years and years to come.


Anonymous said...


Masterson looked every bit legitimate last night. Only gave up two runs and pitched deep into the game. That said, I never felt like the Sox weren't going to add on a few runs later in the game. The Indians pitching staff, perhaps for lack of name recognition, just isn't all that scary. And ultimately, the inability to tack on a few runs late in the game (and perhaps not having Pedroia available for Hanrahan's grounder) cost them the game. That and Bard's curious habit of blowing leads when you least expect it.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

Seems like everyone else watched the Bruins. In my flips back to the Sox, I noticed that Jacobs Field was a bit more crowded than in April. Good for the city. I also miss Cabrera.

Anonymous said...

there were a lot of things i was right about when it comes to the red sox bullpen circa 2008 (okajima/delcarmen). justin masterson, however, has turned into a far better pitcher than i ever thought he would. not that i thought he wouldn't be an effective big league pitcher - i did. i thought he would be a key component at the back end of a bullpen, as a roogy with the ability to give you more in short stints. but turning into a legitimate major league starter - which he has and then some - far surpasses that expectation. good for justin masterson, and good for the cleveland indians for getting more back out of that vmart trade than most thought they did.