Masterson Deserves Criticism the Same as Ubaldo

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by Ryan Isley

Yesterday, I wrote a column on Ubaldo Jimenez, the trade that brought him to Cleveland and how he has not performed up to his expectations. It would not be fair to write about Jimenez, however, without also writing about anther Indians starting pitcher who has underperformed this season – Justin Masterson.

For some reason or another, Indians fans have been giving Masterson a pass for his less than inspiring play this season while constantly ripping on Jimenez every chance they get.

Maybe it is because the Indians never acquired Masterson expecting him to be an ace, maybe it is that Masterson pitched well in 2011, maybe it was that Masterson was named the starting pitcher for opening day or maybe it is something else. I really don’t know.

Whatever it is, it is time for Indians fans to open their eyes to the reality that is Justin Masterson in 2012.

Masterson was acquired from the Boston Red Sox along with Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price in return for Victor Martinez at the trade deadline in 2009. Masterson was used both as a starter and out of the bullpen for the Red Sox and the Indians started him in relief before moving him into their rotation.

Masterson struggled in his first season and a half with the Indians, posting a record of 7-20 and an ERA of 4.66 in 45 games (39 starts).

In 2011, with the Indians watching Roberto Hernandez (then known as Fausto Carmona) show more inconsistency than gas prices, Masterson stepped up and became the No.1 guy on the pitching staff.

Masterson was 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA and while the overall record doesn’t look good, Masterson was a hard luck pitcher last season, getting just 4.1 runs of support per start. That may not sound too bad, but the Indians scored just 1.9 runs per game in the games started by Masterson in which they lost, including getting shut out four times with him on the mound.

In his 34 starts in 2011, Masterson delivered 22 quality starts (6+ innings with 3 or less earned runs). He also struck out 158 while walking just 65.

Unfortunately, that has not been the story so far here in 2012.

The season started out looking like the Indians were going to get the same results from Masterson as they did a year ago after he dominated the Toronto Blue Jays on opening day at Progressive Field. The 27-year-old held the Blue Jays to just one run on two hits and struck out 10, walking just one in his eight innings pitched. He left the game with a 4-1 lead and ended up with a no decision as the Indians lost 7-4 in 16 innings.

In the seven starts since opening day, it has been downhill for Masterson.

Masterson has gone more than 6.1 innings just one time and is 1-3 with a 6.28 ERA in those seven starts. Like Jimenez, Masterson’s control has been missing as he has struck out 23 batters and walked 25 in those starts. After allowing just two hits on opening day, opposing teams have 46 hits in 40.1 innings against the Indians so-called No.1 starter. Between hits and walks, Masterson has a WHIP of 1.612 in those starts.

Looking at the numbers that Masterson has put up over the last month and not looking at who it was, you would think that the pitcher was the No.5 man in the rotation and just struggling to hold on to that spot in the rotation.

Yet Cleveland fans continue to give Masterson a free pass and criticize Jimenez. While I am not asking for you to skewer Masterson, it would be nice to see some consistency in the criticism.

What do you think – Should Masterson be given a free pass or be open for criticism? Why are fans not ripping Masterson like they do Ubaldo? Leave a comment or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

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Ryan focuses on NASCAR - bringing readers stats, news and his opinions on the multiple series of Stock Car Racing.

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