Between now and opening day I’ll be posting a series of articles focusing on the weakness of the Indians’ key players. To kick things off, I’ll take a look at Justin Masterson, and what he needs to do to rebound from a disappointing 2012 season.
But, unfortunately, Masterson had plenty of off-nights a season ago.
Like most sinkerball pitchers, when it starts to go wrong for Masterson, the ball hangs up in the zone. And as you can see from the heat map on the right, Masterson can only survive when he keeps the ball low.
In 2012, opponents hit .320 on sinkers that Masterson left up in the zone, but managed just a .246 average when he kept the ball down.
And like many sinkerballers (Charles Nagy comes to mind as another Cleveland example), Masterson’s mistakes up in the zone weren’t scattered randomly through the year.
When Masterson lost control, he lost it in a big way.
In the 14 starts in which at least 30 percent of Masterson’s sinkers were up in the zone, he posted a combined 6.52 ERA.
But in his other 20 starts, Masterson posted an ERA of 3.98 – not far off from his 3.21 ERA during his breakout 2011 season.
So the goal for Masterson in 2013 is really quite simple: keep the sinker down!
The key to keeping the sinker low in the zone boils down to mechanics. Presumably, this is something that Masterson and new pitching coach Mickey Callaway will be working on during spring training.
Callaway will be the fourth pitching coach Masterson has worked with in the past three seasons. Hopefully he can help recreate the success Masterson found while working with Tim Belcher in 2011.