Paydirt: Pick Up Justin Masterson

It’s looking like Scott is finally moving below Mary-Kate and Ashley as the most dysfunctional Olsen. Hopefully you picked him up per my request prior to his near no-no last night against the surprisingly awful Braves offense.

In the meantime, let’s dig in with some more waiver wire sorcery.

Somehow, Justin Masterson is owned in only 7% of Yahoo! leagues. There’s a formula somewhere that guarantees a league-average Red Sox or Yankees player at least 30% fantasy ownership, which I can completely understand — I’m all about the intangibles on my team, and I only like to field a squad of hustling gritty winners that play on the east coast.

Then there’s Cleveland. Before Masterson got shipped there in the Victor Martinez deal he had to waive his hustling gritty winner clause, causing him to fall off the world’s fantasy radar. But here’s the crazy part, guys: Remember when Bugs Bunny pulled out the “Secret Stuff” in Space Jam so the Looney Tunes could defeat the Monstars? I’m convinced Masterson’s had the hustling gritty winner spirit all along, and he doesn’t even need a team with Wayne Knight to get it back.

I’m an absolute sucker for anyone who can throw a K per inning, leading to dangerous liaisons with Daniel Cabrera and the like. But Masterson, currently sporting an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.80 WHIP, has struck out 31 in 26.1 innings against just 12 walks. Where he’s getting destroyed is his hit rate — he has, as the experts say, an “unsustainable” .420 batting average on balls in play, which is due for regression to the mean, which is typically .300.

Why is a .420 BABIP unsustainable, especially in Masterson’s case? For one, he is a flickering beacon of light in our Paydirt pitching formula. He’s pounding the bottom of the zone, inducing a nifty groundball rate of 56.3%. The Indians defense is far from airtight, but those grounders are bound by physics to stop finding holes and stealing our fantasy oxygen. It also appears that Masterson is shaking off a bit of his offseason rust; his pitch trajectory shows a guy who has yet to reach his typical velocity. With perhaps diminished confidence in his breaking stuff, he’s throwing 10% more fastballs so far than what he averaged all of last year. At a lower velocity, those are going to get hit. As Masterson mixes up his repertoire going forward, hitters aren’t going to be able to sit on his fastball. Contact is gonna get weaker.

To top it off, a whopping 26.7% of fly balls induced by Masterson have gone for home runs, which is not gonna keep. Worst in that number last year was Braden Looper, who somehow managed to make only 15.8% of his flyballs go over the fence.

Like Zack Greinke and all Indians starters, Masterson will pitch some gems that won’t net him a W. That said, he is absolutely worth picking up in 12-team mixed leagues. This is a prime example of a talented young pitcher who needs to shake off some early season issues. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him kick off a string of brilliant starts, beginning tomorrow against the Tigers. Go get him.

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One response to “Paydirt: Pick Up Justin Masterson

  1. So I ended up picking up Masterson before he pitched against the Tigers, and although it was barely a quality start, I did appreciate the strikeouts. Nice call.

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