I should have titled this 2014 Fantasy Baseball Projections: Justin Masterslider…
Take a look at this first (customized FanGraphs) Matrix – Player A vs. Player B:
FYI, player A and player B are both Justin Masterson…simply ‘Player B’ is Justin Masterson’s 2013 Performance. Look at those contact/command and balls in play related advancements (K% jump and Ct% drop backed up by a F-Str% and SwStr% increases; decreased BABIP because of a LD% drop and another step forward in both FB% and GB%). He truly put it altogether in 2013, but how?
Two words: Slider usage. Check out this matrix from Brooks Baseball:
Masterson basically turned 7% of his 4-seam Fastballs (and some changeups) into 7% more Sliders. The effect was glorious. Under the repertoire matrix above, look at the slider rank. It had the best movement, 11th best whiff per swing rate, and the 16th best line drive rate…all effects that you can see in the first matrix. How did I come up with these ranks? Check out the below file. I used Baseball Prospectus’ Pitch F/X leaderboard (utilizing Dan Brooks’ Pitch Sabermetric Outcomes I believe) and found z-scores for each category and each pitch. The first tab is his slider – second his fastball. Velocity, combined horizontal and vertical movement, whiff/swing as well as GB/FB and LD/BIP combined were all z-scored (z-velocity and z-movement is combined into one score and z-whiff/swing is added to the combined GB/FB and LD/BIP z-score). As you can see, Masterson had the 5th best Slider and 87th bast fastball.
Just to be clear, there are a number of factors I didn’t include in the pitch scores that are obviously important (release point consistency, velocity differential for off-speed pitches, end-location etc.) as well as pitch pop-up% (for Masterson it’s 9.8% on the slider which matches the MLB average IFFB% rate of ~9.7%), but my goal was to focus on the sabermetric outcome level where I believe Masterson could repeat if he sticks with this repertoire. This post is to show you how Masterson improved dramatically.
2014 Projection Update:
What to take away? I don’t think this was a fluke season. I think he could sustain something closer to his 2013 level, which should rank him quite a bit higher than I have him in my Top 100 SP Projections.
Let’s see what this effect could do. Currently, I have Masterson ranked as the 46th best SP: 13W – 3.71ERA – 1.30WHIP – 160K because my projection system like most others automatically regress him to his career/trend norms, but let’s consider his new approach sticks. I changed the following peripherals/skills:
*K% from 19.2% to 21.2% (kept his projected BB% of 9.2% the same), and I weighted the Z-Ct% and SwStr% closer to his 2013 line as well. I already had his projected GB-rate at 56.5% and LD-rate at 18.3% so I’ll keep that as is and therefore the BABIP remains something very close to his 2013 line. What does this do?
His expected ERA drops from 3.71 to 3.56; WHIP from 1.30 to 1.27 and K from 160 to 177. This would knock his rank up all the way to #31 overall. And Mike, I just might keep him here.