Time for Indians to move Justin Masterson to the bullpen

8 Comments

Justin Masterson allowed seven runs in five innings last night for his league-leading 11th loss and is now 5-18 with a 5.19 ERA since going from Boston to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade last July.
Normally that type of performance would suggest someone simply isn’t a good pitcher, but in Masterson’s case it likely just means he’s not a good starting pitcher.
As a right-hander with a low arm angle and shaky control Masterson struggles against left-handed hitters and in a starting role opposing managers can stack the lineup with lefty bats against him. However, he’s always been dominant against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .226 batting average and .623 OPS compared to a .301 batting average and .852 OPS versus lefties.
Not surprisingly Masterson has a 3.28 ERA and 72/25 K/BB ratio in 74 career innings as a reliever. I’m all for giving young pitchers a chance to sink or swim as starters before moving them to the bullpen and Masterson is likely still capable of being a decent fourth or fifth starter, but his raw stuff and arm angle are seemingly built for late-inning relief work.
His struggles as a starter have probably soured many Indians fans on Masterson, but as an extreme ground-ball pitcher who’s death on righties he’s a role change away from potentially being a major asset.