Justin Masterson improved to 3-0 on Friday night against the Orioles, becoming just the third Indians starter to win each of his first three starts while posting an ERA under 2.00 in the past 30 seasons.
Masterson joins Cliff Lee (2008) and Greg Swindell (1988), each of whom would go on to win at least 18 games that season. In 2008, Scott Lewis also accomplished the feat, but did so only after being recalled from Buffalo in September.
While it’s nice to imagine Masterson turning in a Cliff Lee-like season (or even a Swindell season, for that matter) realistically we have to assume he’ll fall back down to earth.
Through his first three games his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is only .242. Over the course of a full season, we can expect that number to even out around .300, meaning to this point he’s probably been the beneficially of some balls simply rolling his way.
Along those same lines Masterson’s FIP (fielding independent pitching – in essence, ERA with defensive variables removed) is 2.64. However his xFIP (expected FIP) is 3.43. Like his BABIP numbers, this indicates that Masterson has benefited from a certain amount of luck through his first three starts.
By no means do I intend to take away from what Masterson has accomplished through three starts. It undoubtedly is a good sign and hopefully a confidence booster, but we need to keep our expectations realistic.