Justin Masterson shut out the Twins for 7.2 innings last night, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out six, and remarkably did so while throwing fastballs on 103 of his 104 pitches. Seriously.
His timing was especially amusing because just a few hours earlier Sam Miller wrote a Baseball Prospectus column about all-fastball repertoires and wondered how long it would be before someone went with 100 percent heat in a start.
Masterson was damn close, throwing just one slider among 104 offerings, and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (at the Twitter urging of an intrigued Miller) talked to the right-hander about why he bothered using the one non-fastball:
Well, you know, we thought we’d probably use it more. That one would hopefully kind of put it in the back of the head like, “Oh, later on in the innings, is he going to throw one here? Is he not?”
Along with that little intro to Game Theory he also said the approach was a case of “don’t change what’s working.” In other words, if the Twins kept showing that they couldn’t hit his fastball why did he need to throw anything else? Masterson got six strikeouts and 15 ground-ball outs while allowing zero extra-base hits, and only a Chris Perez blown save kept him from winning a 1-0 game while throwing one pitch slower than 90 miles per hour.
I’ve been skeptical of Masterson as a starter because I wondered if his lack of secondary pitches would eventually force a move to the bullpen, but that looks kind of silly right now. He has a 2.64 ERA and 101/40 K/BB ratio in 136 innings spread over 20 starts this season and, as Bastian notes, he’s thrown 82 percent fastballs.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.