Tagged: Justin Masterson

MLB Season in Review: Cleveland Indians Pitchers

By Tommy Rancel //

Biggest Surprise: Chris Perez

When the team acquired Perez last season, they envisioned him as the closer of the future. They probably did not expect that to come in 2010, but they got what they wanted and then some. Perez racked up 23 saves in 27 chances this season with a 1.71 ERA – third-best in the American League among relievers with at least 50 innings of work. On top of the low ERA, Perez struck out nearly a batter an inning and allowed just four home runs in 63 frames. Defensive independent metrics suggest Perez’s ERA is a bit lucky, so beware of regression in 2011.

Biggest Bust: Kerry Wood

Signed to be the team’s closer is 2008, Wood never lived up to his contract in Cleveland. After injury, ineffectiveness, and the emergence of Perez, he was traded to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline. Before the trade, he was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA and three blown saves in 23 games. He has since pitched much better as a set-up man for the Yankees, but that does no good for Cleveland.

2011 Keeper Alert: Justin Masterson

Like Perez, the Indians acquired Masterson in 2009 with high hopes for the future. After working mostly out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2008 and 2009, Masterson made 29 starts for the Tribe this year. The fantasy stats, however, are a work in progress: 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 180 innings. However, he should be on your keeper list because…

2011 Regression Alert: Justin Masterson

While his traditional stats are not impressive, Masterson is better than his near-five ERA suggests. He has a decent strikeout rate of 7.0 K/9 IP and also lowered his walk rate to a career low 3.65 BB/9 IP. As an extreme groundball pitcher (59.9%), he relies heavily on luck and infield defense. In 2010 he was unlucky on batting average on balls in play: His BABIP .332 was well above the league average of .302. With some better luck, Masterson could eventually put up numbers similar to Trevor Cahill‘s 2010 campaign – maybe even next year.

For more on Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

Justin Masterson and Brett Cecil Are Mirror Images

By R.J. Anderson //

There are only so many ways to make it to the major leagues. You
have to be good at something; whether it’s hitting for average or
power, pitching with great stuff or excellent command; or excelling at
defense. Two of the youngest and most promising American League
starters this season share quite a bit in common, both being talented
but still flawed pitchers. Those two SP: Brett Cecil and Justin Masterson.

When the Jays drafted the 6’1″ Cecil, he was finishing up his career
at the University of Maryland as a closer. In fact, he made fewer than
10 starts during his collegiate career, but showed promise as a
potential late-inning reliever who could be placed on the accelerated
path to a big league bullpen. The Jays selected him in the supplemental
phase of round one in 2007’s draft, and immediately converted him to
starting. He spent less than two seasons in the minors before being
promoted as a 22-year-old last year. Cecil went 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA in
17 starts.

On the other hand, Masterson came out of San Diego University and
the Boston Red Sox quickly groomed him as a swingman. He started 36
games in the minors while entering 17 others as a reliever. Promoted to
Boston, a team with strong starting pitching depth, he started only 15
games while entering 42 others out of the pen. He only became a
full-time starter after the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland last July.

Beyond those similarities, the biggest trait the two pitchers share
is an inability to retire opposite-handed batters. Masterson has held
righties to a .699 OPS this season; but lefties have a .462 slugging
percentage and .392 on-base percentage (.854 OPS) against him. When his
days as a set-up man are factored in, the difference holds true; a .626
OPS against righties, .848 OPS against lefties. Cecil, meanwhile, can
get lefties out – their career line against him is .232/.269/.388 – but
struggles with righties: .280/.353/.451. For a further illustration of
Cecil’s struggles, consider this:


If you could combine the two pitchers, taking each of their
strengths and placing them into one pitcher, you would have someone
capable of retiring both hands without ease.Dr. Frankenstein isn’t
walking through the doors of a baseball facility anytime soon, though,
unless it’s to retrieve Shelley Duncan,
meaning the hopes of improvement hinge not on the advancements of
modern science and surgical precision, but on the ability of either
pitcher, or both, to make strides at adaption.

a scouting perspective, the better bet is Masterson. Cecil is short for
a starting pitcher, with a fastball that lives in the low-90s.
Masterson is no vintage Pedro, but his fastball moves faster and his
ability to rank among the league leaders in groundball rate during any
given season appears legitimate. Beyond that, Masterson is more likely
to face a bunch of right-handed hitters than Cecil. This season alone,
Masterson is facing righties roughly 46% of the time; Cecil is facing
lefties 22% of the time. As is the same with positional players, if you
have two at a position with extreme platoon splits and you can only
keep one, keep the one who will be useful more of the time.

One caveat: Masterson’s pitching motion, typically from a
three-quarters angle, might always invite a significant split. He’s a
fine player to own in AL-only leagues, but not an ideal choice for a
shallow mixed league.

For more information on Masterson, Cecil, and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits

Buy-Low Candidate: Justin Masterson

By Tommy Rancel //

Under most circumstances, a pitcher who is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA would be close to a benching – if not dropped – in most fantasy leagues. However, Justin Masterson is a player you should be actively seeking on the waiver wire or via trade.

Masterson has been a portrait of inconsistency in his five starts this season. He pitched 7.2 innings in his last start, following two starts in which he went eight innings total. Despite the winless record and the high ERA, there is a lot to like about Masterson.

First, we have a terrific strikeout rate. With 31 strikeouts in 26.2 innings, the young righty boasts a strikeout per nine (K/9) rate of 10.46. Only Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander were in that territory last season. Of course the small sample size rules apply, but if he regresses toward his career K/9 of 8.03, that would still translate into 150 strikeouts should he pitch 170 innings.


In addition to the favorable strikeout rates, Masterson is a noted groundball machine. He has induced 54.2% groundballs in his career, and is currently getting grounders 57% of the time so far in 2010. His career numbers suggest that is perfectly sustainable. Again, we love groundballs because they limit the damage that can be done on a ball hit in play. In fact, more than two-thirds (66.9%) of at-bats against Masterson end in a strikeout, a groundout, or a single.

With all that said, Masterson does have flaws. His career walks per nine (BB/9) rate is a bit high at 4.13. This season his BB/9 is 4.05. On the other hand, when a pitcher is getting more than a strikeout per inning, as well as almost 60% groundballs, you can accept a few walks.

The biggest cause of Masterson’s inflated ERA thus far has been bad luck. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) thus far is an astronomical .420. A normal BABIP for a pitcher is near .300 and Masterson’s career number is .304. Expect regression to come soon, and with it a big improvement in his fantasy numbers.

Here’s another example of Masterson’s terrible luck: Less than one-fifth of the balls (18.5%) hit off Masterson are flyballs. Yet, almost one-third of those flyballs are leaving the yard. Masterson’s current home run-to-flyball rate (HR/FB) of 26.7% is the highest in the league. That number is more than double his career number of 13.2% and much higher than last year’s “leader”, Braden Looper, who had a 15.8% HR/FB for the Brewers.

When his BABIP and home run rates regress, Masterson should see a significant drop in ERA. Presently, his fielding independent pitching (FIP), which measures strikeouts, walks and home runs, is 4.30 – a full run less than his ERA. Going even further, his expected FIP  or xFIP, which normalizes his home run rates to further remove “luck” from the equation, and give a more accurate look at true talent level, is an excellent 3.12 – the fourth-best mark in the majors.


Masterson, 25, is still learning how to pitch at the major league level. In general, a starting pitcher needs at least three pitches in order to survive lineups turning over three or four times a night. Right now, Masterson is living dangerously with just his fastball and slider. There are two versions of the fastball: four-seam and sinker; however, batters are seeing some form of the hard stuff nearly 85% of the time. He has been throwing his slider nearly 14% and barely using his change-up, which has a usage of less than 2%.

The sinker/slider combo, as well as Masterson’s three-quarters delivery, have been effective against righties, who are hitting just .226/.288/.302 vs. Masterson. Meanwhile, the heavy heater diet has been a feast for lefties who are smashing him to the tune of .414/.493/.655. If Masterson could spend some time with new teammate Mitch Talbot, the owner of a plus change-up, he could use that pitch as a great equalizer against his left-handers. 

All things considered – the strikeouts, the expected regression, and the groundballs – Masterson has the tools to be a solid starter in the American League. Currently, he is available in nearly 60% of leagues.

If you are in a mixed-league, pick him up. If you are in a deeper league or an AL-only league, in which he is owned, it shouldn’t take much to pry him away from an owner who is concerned with ERA. There will be some growing pains, but the potential for reward outweighs the relatively low risk.

For more on Justin Masterson and other buy low candidates, check Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.