2012 in Review: Justin Masterson

Ubaldo Jimenez has gotten a lot of the attention this season for his bad pitching, though Justin Masterson deserves a lot of it as well. But do both pitchers share the same outlook?

2012 Age: 27

2012 WAR (Fangraphs): 2.3 (Starter Level)

2012 WAR (B-Ref): 0.0 (Sub Level)

2012 Salary: $3.825M (Arbitration)

2013 Contract Status: Arbitration (4.108)

    Masterson was not a Cy Young candidate last season, but by most measures was a very good pitcher. Masterson was a workhorse in 2011, throwing 216 innings in 33 starts, and averaging roughly 6.1 innings per start. He posted a very nice 3.21 ERA (122 ERA+), largely because he was much better in one category than previous seasons: Walks. In 2010, his first full season as a starter, he walked 3.7 per 9 innings. In 2011 he lowered that to 2.7 per 9.

    You might be thinking that he pitched better against left-handed hitters as well, but that was most due to to walks as well. In 2010, left-handed hitters had a slash line of .290/.370/.414, in 2011 they hit .291/.331/.415. The difference wasn't batting average or power, but on-base percentage. By limiting those free passes, he was able to have success even while he struggled against a subset of the batters faced in a game.

    So then what was the main driver of his problems in 2012? Walks, with a bit of gopheritis thrown in. Only 2.7% of fly balls hit off Masterson's sinker went over the fence in 2011; in 2012 that number jumped to 13.8%. In other words, Masterson was "hanging" more of his sinkers. His ground-ball percentage didn't change all that much from 2011, and neither did his velocity for that matter, nor the BABIP on his pitches.

    So in other words, it wasn't Justin's stuff (velocity or movement), and it wasn't the defense, but his mistakes, whether they were pitches outside the zone, or right down the middle of the plate. The odd thing about this season is that Justin didn't just randomly sprinkle bad pitches throughout an otherwise good start, he'll pitch really really well for several innings at a time (or even games at a time) and just suddenly lose it. I think that's due to high-maintenance mechanics, where if one little facet of his delivery is off just a bit, the whole thing goes haywire.That could happen right from the beginning of the game, or after 3-4 excellent innings.

    To prove my point, in 2012 Masterson had Game Scores of more than 60 (6 or more innings, 2 or fewer runs) in 13 of his 34 starts, but 13 Game Scores below 40 (6 or less innings, 4 or more runs).

    The good news is that I think Masterson can once again be that dominant starter that we saw in 2011; it's going to take the next pitching coach, whoever that is, to not only improve his standard mechanics, but to be able to quickly fix them if something goes wrong. Easier said than done, I know, but Tim Belcher managed to do it in 2011.

    I know this sounds crazy, but this winter might be a good time to extend Justin Masterson. I know there's a risk that he never gets it back together, but you could always move him back to the bullpen if starting becomes a hopeless cause, and if he does manage to figure things out, you'll have a durable and effective starter locked up for the next 3-4 seasons. It's a risk, but a risk that's worth taking. Two years before free agency seems to be the sweet spot for getting a deal done, and if the Indians wait until a successful 2013 to get an extension done, it might be too late.

    2012 Game Logs:

    Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str GSc
    1 147 1 Apr 5 CLE TOR L,4-7 GS-8 99 8.0 2 1 1 1 10 1 0 1.12 27 99 66 83
    2 148 5 Apr 11 CLE CHW L,6-10 GS-5 L(0-1) 5 5.0 8 5 3 1 2 0 0 2.77 25 94 58 36
    3 149 9 Apr 17 CLE @ SEA W,9-8 GS-4 5 3.2 7 8 8 4 1 1 1 6.48 22 71 39 12
    4 150 14 Apr 22 CLE @ OAK L,1-5 GS-5 L(0-2) 4 5.0 6 4 4 6 2 1 0 6.65 27 111 61 35
    5 151 18 Apr 27 CLE LAA W,3-2 GS-9 4 8.1 4 2 2 5 5 1 0 5.40 33 112 62 67
    6 152 23 May 3 CLE @ CHW W,7-5 GS-7 W(1-2) 5 6.1 8 3 3 3 6 0 0 5.20 29 96 63 48
    7 153 29 May 8 CLE CHW L,3-5 GS-6 4 6.0 6 2 2 5 3 0 0 4.89 27 109 60 50
    8 154 34 May 13 CLE @ BOS L,1-12 GS-6 L(1-3) 4 6.0 7 6 6 1 4 1 3 5.40 28 94 58 37
    9 155 39 May 18 CLE MIA L,2-3 GS-7 4 7.0 6 2 2 3 5 0 0 5.04 26 111 65 59
    10 156 44 May 24 CLE DET W,2-1 GS-7 W(2-3) 5 7.0 5 1 1 5 4 0 0 4.62 31 100 64 62
    11 157 49 May 29 CLE KCR L,2-8 GS-6 L(2-4) 4 6.0 9 8 7 0 8 1 1 5.14 28 111 78 32
    12 158 53 Jun 3 CLE MIN L,3-6 GS-6 L(2-5) 4 6.0 7 3 3 3 3 0 0 5.09 28 103 62 46
    13 159 58 Jun 9 CLE @ STL L,0-2 GS-7 L(2-6) 5 7.0 5 1 1 0 6 1 0 4.76 25 90 65 69
    14 160 63 Jun 15 CLE PIT W,2-0 GS-7 W(3-6) 5 7.0 4 0 0 3 9 0 1 4.38 28 109 70 75
    15 161 68 Jun 20 CLE CIN W,8-1 CG W(4-6) 4 9.0 3 1 0 0 9 0 1 3.98 30 110 76 88
    16 162 73 Jun 26 CLE @ NYY L,4-6 GS-6 L(4-7) 5 6.0 7 4 4 3 2 0 0 4.09 28 114 70 41
    17 163 78 Jul 1 CLE @ BAL W,6-2 GS-7 W(5-7) 4 7.0 5 2 1 0 7 0 0 3.92 26 97 65 68
    18 164 83 Jul 6 CLE TBR L,3-10 GS-5 L(5-8) 4 4.1 9 8 8 4 7 2 0 4.40 26 102 57 16
    19 165 86 Jul 13 CLE @ TOR W,1-0 GS-7 W(6-8) 6 7.0 5 0 0 1 5 0 0 4.14 25 103 67 71
    20 166 91 Jul 18 CLE @ TBR W,10-6 GS-5 4 4.1 7 4 4 7 1 0 0 4.29 26 109 62 27
    21 167 96 Jul 23 CLE BAL W,3-1 GS-8 W(7-8) 4 7.1 7 1 1 1 6 0 1 4.12 28 92 60 65
    22 168 101 Jul 28 CLE @ MIN L,5-12 GS-6 L(7-9) 4 5.2 7 10 8 2 2 1 1 4.47 28 103 66 19
    23 169 106 Aug 3 CLE @ DET L,2-10 GS-4 L(7-10) 5 4.0 10 7 7 4 4 1 0 4.78 25 81 48 14
    24 170 111 Aug 8 CLE MIN W,6-2 GS-7 W(8-10) 4 7.0 3 2 2 4 7 1 0 4.68 28 111 73 66
    25 171 116 Aug 13 CLE @ LAA W,6-2 GS-7 W(9-10) 4 6.0 6 0 0 3 4 0 0 4.50 24 99 56 61
    26 172 121 Aug 19 CLE @ OAK L,0-7 GS-6 L(9-11) 5 5.2 9 7 7 1 5 2 1 4.73 27 101 63 27
    27 173 126 Aug 25 CLE NYY W,3-1 GS-7 W(10-11) 5 6.2 7 1 1 2 6 0 0 4.60 29 106 72 60
    28 174 131 Aug 30 CLE OAK L,7-12 GS-5 L(10-12) 4 4.0 8 8 8 2 1 3 0 4.91 22 89 53 13
    29 175 136 Sep 4 CLE @ DET W,3-2 GS-6 W(11-12) 4 6.0 4 2 2 1 4 1 0 4.84 22 93 63 59
    30 176 141 Sep 10 CLE @ MIN L,2-7 GS-7 L(11-13) 5 6.2 7 6 6 2 3 0 1 4.96 29 94 65 37
    31 177 146 Sep 15 CLE DET L,3-5 GS-5 L(11-14) 4 4.2 6 4 2 4 8 0 1 4.93 26 105 62 44
    32 178 151 Sep 21 CLE @ KCR L,3-6 GS-6 L(11-15) 5 6.0 7 4 4 2 3 0 1 4.97 26 99 58 43
    33 179 156 Sep 26 CLE @ CHW W,6-4 GS-5 4 4.2 7 4 4 4 2 0 0 5.03 25 109 59 32
    34 180 161 Oct 2 CLE CHW W,4-3 GS-6 5 6.0 4 1 1 1 5 0 0 4.93 22 99 67 64
    CLE 206.1 212 122 113 88 159 18 13 4.93 906
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 10/5/2012.

    Career Stats

    Year Age Tm Lg ERA GS GF CG IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO BF ERA+ H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
    2008 23 BOS AL 3.16 9 6 0 88.1 68 31 31 10 40 3 68 365 147 6.9 1.0 4.1 6.9 1.70
    2009 24 TOT AL 4.52 16 4 1 129.1 128 73 65 12 60 3 119 568 99 8.9 0.8 4.2 8.3 1.98
    2009 24 BOS AL 4.50 6 4 0 72.0 72 38 36 7 25 2 67 312 104 9.0 0.9 3.1 8.4 2.68
    2009 24 CLE AL 4.55 10 0 1 57.1 56 35 29 5 35 1 52 256 94 8.8 0.8 5.5 8.2 1.49
    2010 25 CLE AL 4.70 29 0 1 180.0 197 107 94 14 73 4 140 802 84 9.9 0.7 3.7 7.0 1.92
    2011 26 CLE AL 3.21 33 0 1 216.0 211 89 77 11 65 4 158 908 122 8.8 0.5 2.7 6.6 2.43
    2012 27 CLE AL 4.93 34 0 1 206.1 212 122 113 18 88 1 159 906 79 9.2 0.8 3.8 6.9 1.81
    5 Yrs 4.17 121 10 4 820.0 816 422 380 65 326 15 644 3549 98 9.0 0.7 3.6 7.1 1.98
    162 Game Avg. 4.17 27 2 1 185 184 95 86 15 74 3 145 802 98 9.0 0.7 3.6 7.1 1.98
    CLE (4 yrs) 4.27 106 0 4 659.2 676 353 313 48 261 10 509 2872 92 9.2 0.7 3.6 6.9 1.95
    BOS (2 yrs) 3.76 15 10 0 160.1 140 69 67 17 65 5 135 677 124 7.9 1.0 3.6 7.6 2.08
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 10/5/2012.
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