A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Justin Masterson

Ok, ok... everyone who follows baseball and not just one of the East Coast teams knows who Jered Weaver is, but how many people know who Justin Masterson is?
I'll give you a hint... he's number 2 on wins (5) and number 9 on ERA (the last game was average and he got pulled down a little to 2.18). He pitches for the Indians. In his first few seasons, he was rough and Boston ditched his upside for Victor Martinez (not with the team anymore either), but how many young pitchers make the jump to the bigs and pitch like a star at age 25 (he's 26 now)?
After all, Sandy Koufax was 25 before he went sub 4.00 and 27 when he hit the 5 years that decimated all opposition. At 26, he won 18, struck out 269, pitched 15 completes, and had a 3.52 ERA. Masterson might only have 22 whiffs in 33 innings, but he's getting it together for the Tribe, and that says something.
Bob Gibson was good at 25 (13-12, 3.24, and 166 Ks BUT, he walked 119 batters to lead the league), but he didn't flourish until 26 (15 wins, 2.85, and 208). From there, he was the man and literally stopped everyone cold and dead by the World Series of 67 into the regular season of 68 (that beautiful number that is so mathematically perfect 1.12 - baseball's version of pi or the golden ratio).
Randy Johnson was 26 before he went sub 4.00 for an ERA, and that was the first of 3 years where he led the league in walks - compiling 416 TOTAL walks over that time (though he did fan 194 in the final year). From this point on, he had 1469 Ks in 4 years - to include 204 in the strike shortened season of 1994. In 1993 and 1994, he was still walking 99 and 72 batters (respectively). We can't call the final 72 total that much of a victory since he missed a month and a half and he walked 19 batters in that last month and a half (projected 91 total).
And so Masterson is winning big. He's better than C.C., Roy, Jon, Tim, and James (at least for now). With that, the future is bright. Let's hope he doesn't have to wear shades, because we're in year 2 of the year of the pitcher.
There are so many great hurlers out there. Danny Haren, Josh Johnson, and the aforementioned Weaver (so much better than the mirage of his brother Jeff Weaver that the Yankees coveted and had to have from Detroit... only to have him flop bigger than Sidney Ponson).
Weaver is throwing a .99 ERA. His WHIP is .79. He's killing opponents for a team that just can't beat the Red Sox, but seems to beat everyone else. Like Haren, his other ace starter by his side, his anemic offense doesn't have to do much to support him. They will prevail - unless they play Boston.
What's sick about this (early version of the) season is that there are 3 pitchers better than a .79 and one of them is named Kyle frickin' Lohse (.73 WHIP and 1.64ERA)! This is a man with a career 1.41 WHIP and 4.71 ERA, and yet, somehow he goes to St. Louis and Dave Duncan makes him great! It's time to nominate Duncan for President of the US (provided Donald Trump can't imagine a reason to get him exiled).
And in the end, good pitching is a thing of beauty. That 12 to 6 curve that just falls or the cutter with serious late movement that explodes on the batter and leaves him fearing the sting of a broken bat before it happens (if it happens, and yes, it does... just not always - it's the fear of God factor - ask Mariano Rivera and his bank account). This year, there are 23 pitchers who have more strikeouts than the league sucking batter (31 for Raburn and Fowler). The high water mark is 49 in 45.2 innings for Jered Weaver, but Justin Verlander is making batters look stupid with his 45 (despite a 3.64 ERA). Clayton Kershaw and Matt Garza also have 41 despite very high ERAs. The Phillies big 4 alone has 133 (Halladay and Lee have 39 a piece, Hamels has 34, and Oswalt has the remaining 21).
Nevertheless, Mighty Ryan has given 27 of them back (Ibanez has given back another 24), which only goes to prove that you win some and lose some...
You just have to hope that you win more than you lose!

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