Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Justin Masterson Continues His Excellence

At the end of April, Justin Masterson sat at 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA. At quick glance, if one sees that he is now 8-6, and remember that he failed to make the American League All-Star team despite the fact that it seemed like every single player on the original team got the plague, and necessitating a B Team of Allmost-Stars to be called upon, one might then conclude that Masterson has struggled since April. That conclusion would be quite incorrect.

Through April 205533.01342688112212.1812.1826.091134.000
Since May 11615103.3424973732297932.7914.6215.367141.333

Since the beginning of May, Masterson has struck out batters more frequently, walked batters less frequently, and, most impressively, has been slightly more stingy with the long ball. So, why the worse result? Well, for one thing, a 2.18 ERA was unsustainable for how he was pitching (after four starts, I noted here that his pitching line was more in line with someone in the mid 3's). So, pitching better than that and ending up with a 2.79 ERA sounds about right.

The biggest difference has been the support the rest of his team has given him. In April, opponents batted .258 on balls in play - since then, they've been hitting .306. That evens out to .295 over the season, right around what would be expected. More notably, the offense has failed him. In Masterson's six losses, the Indians have scored 6 runs. In 7 no decisions, they've scored a more reasonable 14 runs - unfortunately, most of those have come after Masterson had left the game. In those no decisions, Masterson sports a 1.87 ERA - better than in his 8 wins.

Last night might have been his toughest. Masterson was pitching (pardon the bad pun) masterfully. Through 7.2 innings, he had allowed 4 hits, struck out 6, and walked nobody. Unfortunately, when he left the game, he had only a 1-0 lead. In the ninth innings, closer Chris Perez (who made the All-Star team over Masterson) got the first out, and then walk, double, intentional walk, two run single, and the game was over, with the Indians 2-1 losers.

A couple better bounces, and Masterson could easily have a better won-loss record. There are 10 AL pitchers with sub-3.00 ERA's, and they have an average record of 10-5, a number held down by the equally unlucky James Shields, and the confusing Matt Harrison, whose peripherals don't portend a sub-3.00 ERA in any way. With his improving strikout and walk rates, and his always strong ground ball percentage, Masterson is a great bet to win games down the stretch and in the future. It's ok to stay on the bandwagon.

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