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. 

The key to Masterson’s success has always been his sinker. In 2012, Masterson threw his sinker 79 percent of the time, so he can’t afford to have an off night with the go-to pitch.

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.


  • joey says:

    in my opinion…the problem with sinkerball pitchers…is everything is the same speed…all good pitchers must change speeds…or have a nasty strikeout pitch…he doesnt do or have that…i think he should work on some secondary pitches.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Later in his career he will have to develop other pitches, but right now he can be dominant with just one. Masterson’s sinker is truly one of a kind. He consistently throws it 93+, which is almost unheard of for a sinker (and unhittable, when its located).

      42% of Masterson’s sinkers were 93+ last year. The next highest % among SPs was Rick Porcello at 29%.

      It’s a dominant pitch. He just needs to get control of his mechanics again so he can continue to keep it low in the zone.