Is it time to update the conventional wisdom on Justin Masterson? Perhaps. It's true, he came into the season with serious questions as to whether he could get lefties out, and consequently whether he didn't really belong in the bullpen. It's true, he did little to quiet those concerns in the first half of the season, or at least, what successes he had came in fits and starts and accompanied by occasional setbacks. And it's true, finally, that he went through some kind of brutal period in July and August that made it possible, briefly, to compare his effectiveness as a starter to David Huff's.
These things are also true, however. Masterson has pitched at least five complete innings in his last 19 consecutive starts. (Yes, there have been a few ugly starts, but he hasn't really shredded the bullpen in months. That alone makes him more than a fifth starter.) Masterson has an ERA of 2.95 for his last seven starts, and he's now pitched three quality starts in a row, with 15 strikeouts to go with six walks. Tonight, he held five lefty batters to five hits, one of them an infield single, none of them for extra bases.
At this point, there should be little doubt that Masterson will get several more months and probably the entire 2011 season to show what kind of ceiling he has as a starter. It is hard to imagine what he could do to change that in the two remaining starts he's like to get this season.
The Indians' action came almost entirely in the 6th. Hafner led off by hammering the ball just barely over the fence in right, which is always nice to see. He had roped a double earlier, making this one of those games where you start to daydream about what it would be like to see Hafner "all the way back" someday. Despite vague impressions, Hafner has not really taken off at any point this season, and outside a rather prolific three-week stretch in May, he really hasn't hit much better than Ryan Garko used to hit. Given his defensive uselessness, his only real edge over Garko is his baserunning — and the daydreams, of course.
Later that inning, Brown hit a little bloop to left, which is what he's supposed to do, I guess. Then Donald and Valbuena both worked Francisco "Not K-Rod" Rodriguez for walks, which is what the Indians like to see out of their middle infielders, so they did what they were supposed to do, too. And then Lou Marson caught a hanging slider and sent it deep into the seats in left field, which is what he's supposed to do.
Wait. Wait wait wait wait.
Lou Marson hit a grand slam? Why, yes, yes he did. In fact, he gunned down a couple of guys at second base tonight, too — and he now has as many home runs for the season as Kelly Shoppach, and four more doubles. Yes, he does.
A couple days ago, Jason Knapp had his fourth start for Lake County, and the line didn't look good, 4 ER in 3.2 IP. The line is deceiving though. Despite struggling early with control, Knapp struck out seven of the first 14 batters, with only one batter managing to get the ball out of the infield. Things fell apart after that, there was a passed ball and a walk and a couple of singles, and then some random middle reliever let three of Knapp's runners to score, despite coming in with two outs. Them's the breaks, I guess.
My point? Cliff Lee is having a pretty good week so far — and for that matter, so's Victor Martinez. We won the game, too. Am I supposed to make a big deal out of that? Because for once, the Indians made it feel kind of routine.
|Highest WPA||Lowest WPA|
|Travis Hafner||.133||Matt LaBoras||-.037|
|Sweet Lou Marson||.132||Scot-Soo Boras||-.035|