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.
Cardinal closer Trevor Rosenthal was taken out of last night’s game against the Red Sox after he gave up a big homer and a walk. He velocity was down as well, and Mike Mathney said after the game that he didn’t look right. Now the Cardinals are going to take a closer look at him, and he’ll be examined today for what is being described as “tightness” in his right arm.
Rosenthal is 3-4 with a 3.40 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 76/20 in 47.2 innings. He has 11 saves after regaining the closer’s job from Seung Hwan Oh. Now some combination of Oh, Tyler Lyons, and John Brebbia will fill in for Rosenthal to the extent he needs to miss time.
Aaron Judge hit a monster home run in last night’s win over the Mets, but he also set a dubious record. Judge struck out for the 33rd consecutive game, setting a new mark for a position player in a single season.
Yes, that’s qualified. No pitchers, of course, as I assume many of them have struck out in more than 33 straight games. Also, Adam Dunn once struck out in 36 straight games, but that straddled two seasons: he struck out in the final four games of 2011 and the first 32 games of 2012. Still, Judge’s feat is impressive, and given the nature of his game and the state of baseball these days, it’s not hard to imagine him striking out in three or four more straight games anyway.
None of which, by the way, should be all that much of a slight on Judge. The guy is still hitting .291/.420/.614, even with his second half slump. If I was a manager I’d happily accept his whiffs in exchange for everything else he brings to the table. It’s not 1959 anymore, and strikeouts are not the worst thing that can happen.