Justin Masterson Looking to Improve on Stellar 2013
- DOB: 3/22/1985
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/250 lbs.
- Position: Starting Pitcher
- Contract: Signed to a 1-year, $9.7625 million contract; eligible for free agency after 2014 season
Justin Masterson Career Stats:
|162 Game Avg.||10||12||4.03||190||76||158||1.356||8.6||3.6||7.5|
|CLE (5 yrs)||44||55||4.08||852.2||337||704||1.371||8.8||3.6||7.4|
|BOS (2 yrs)||9||8||3.76||160.1||65||135||1.279||7.9||3.6||7.6|
2013 Year in Review:
Justin Masterson was downright filthy in 2013. He was voted to his first career All-Star Game, and finally seemed to emerge as the Indians’ unquestioned ace.
After a frustrating 2012 season (for Masterson and pretty much the rest of the team) that saw Jedi Masterson post a 4.93 ERA in 206 1/3 innings (though FIP and xFIP pegged him at 4.16 and 4.15, respectively), he returned with a vengeance in 2013. After never posting a K/9 rating of 7.0 since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, Masterson struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings last season. Some pitchers see their other peripherals suffer if their strikeout rate increases, but Masterson’s groundball rate improved to an astonishing 58.0%. In addition, he lowered his walk rate from 3.8 BB/9 in 2012 to 3.5 BB/9 in 2013. Masterson’s ERA was an impressive 3.45, but he posted a FIP of 3.35 and an xFIP of 3.33. Masterson also tied for the league lead with 3 complete game shutouts.
In addition, his success (as well as the tutelage of pitching coach Mickey Callaway) had a domino effect on the rest of the rotation. Thought to be a weakness of the team, the Tribe’s 2013 rotation ranked 6th in the American League (out of 15 teams) with a cumulative 3.92 ERA, after ranking 13th (of 14 teams) in 2012 with a cumulative 5.25 ERA. In addition to Masterson’s success, the Tribe saw breakout seasons from Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, a return to previous success from Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, and an impressive introduction to the major leagues by young flamethrower Danny Salazar. When Masterson was shelved with an injury at the end of the season, the rest of the rotation picked up the pace and led the Indians to the playoffs on the strength of a 10-game winning streak to end the season.
Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference value Masterson’s 2013 season as 3.4 wins above replacement, but that’s not where his value ends. Masterson is a terrific and consistent starter who is a great teammate and mentor to those around him.
Looking Ahead to 2014:
Justin Masterson is entering his final season of club control, and is eligible for free agency following the season. Much has already been made of his contract situation, and some have speculated that Big Masty could be traded before he can test the open market. The Indians have been in extension talks with Masterson and his agent, though nothing is imminent (though Homer Bailey‘s recent 6-year, $105 million extension with the Reds could be the model for a potential Masterson deal).
Barring anything unpredictable, Masterson will be the Tribe’s Opening Day starter, and should anchor the rotation in 2014 (and hopefully beyond). Masterson excels at keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark (his career HR/9 rate is an impressive 0.7), while he has shown the ability to pile up strikeouts as well. His control is solid as well. Continued success from Masterson should go a long way towards helping the Indians’ playoff push, as the team lost both Jimenez and Kazmir via free agency this offseason.
Although Masterson is prone to a bad outing sometimes (though nobody really isn’t), as long as he’s given the opportunity to take the ball every fifth day, there shouldn’t be any big issues with him.
What You Should Expect:
Contract issues aside, it’s fair to expect Justin Masterson to continue where he left off in 2013. His peripherals suggest that Masterson’s success is sustainable, and he has what it takes to lead a rotation.
I wouldn’t really call Masterson a stereotypical “ace,” but that’s pretty much what he is. He’s not flashy like many pitchers of his caliber are, but he does his job every time he pitches, and he gives the Indians a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for.
Since it seemed to spike out of nowhere, it’s fair to wonder if Masterson’s strikeout rate is sustainable. However, I think that it is, especially due to the strength of his other peripherals and the success the rest of the rotation had in Callaway’s first season as pitching coach.
Masterson isn’t the enigma he was shortly after the Indians acquired him from the Red Sox in the Victor Martinez trade. He’s much more consistent, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue his success for years to come.
There’s only one question with Justin Masterson: will that success continue to occur while he wears an Indians uniform?
It’s a fair question, and one that should be answered in the coming months.