Justin Masterson‘s Indians career got off to a painfully slow start, as he lost 12 of his first 13 decisions in a Tribe uniform.
But Masterson has turned things around as of late. Since June 1, Masterson 3-2 with a 3.51 ERA. Nothing special, but signficantly better than his 0-5/5.87 line through the season’s first two months.
The key to Masterson’s success has been his improved efficiency. Due to control problems, he was averaging over 4 pitches per batter through the first two months. As a result, he pitched into the 7th inning just twice.
As his control has improved, so have the results. The chart below shows his season average for pitches per batters faced. (click on the chart for a larger image). As you can see, there’s a clear downward trend since the start of June, which coincides with his improved performance.
On Wednesday, his second-best performance of the season, Masterson averaged just 3.21 pitches per batter faced. 65 percent of plate appearances ended after three pitches or less, well above the league average of 45 percent.
How is he retiring batters faster? By throwing more strikes early in the count. On Wednesday, at least two of his first three pitches in an at-bat were strikes 65 percent of the time, above the league average of 60 percent.
It sounds like a simply formula to follow: more strikes = more outs. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been that easy for Masterson. Hopefully he continues this recent trend