While Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson is off to a disappointing start to 2014, his underlying skills set the stage for a breakout season in 2014. Masterson is coming off a solid 2013 campaign wherein he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 193 innings of work, and that success was predicated upon an elite groundball rate (58%). Masterson also figured out how to record outs against left-handed batters as evidenced by these numbers: .248/.340/.357. And, right-handed batters continue to struggle against the 29-year-old hurler as evidenced by these career numbers: .217/.298/.292.
Masterson has also enjoyed success versus Toronto against whom he is 3-1 with a career 2.83 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. In fact, Masterson has limited the Blue Jays to a mere three runs in his last 19 2/3-innings of work against Toronto. Masterson is a perfect 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his last four starts against the Blue Jays. He is also 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four home games – three starts – versus Toronto since joining the Indians. I also like the fact that Masterson is supported by a very good Cleveland bullpen that owns a 3.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this season, including a 3.05 ERA at night and a 3.26 ERA at home.
Toronto also arrives in town with a scuffling lineup that is batting just .233 with a .306 on base percentage this season (4.1 runs per game), including hitting .231 with a .309 on base percentage on the road (3.9 runs per game) and .222 with a .312 on base percentage at night (4.1 runs per game). In contrast, Cleveland takes the field with a lineup that is dominating right-handed starters. Specifically, the Indians are batting .267 with a .370 on base percentage versus righties, including averaging 5.9 runs per game while boasting a 6-3 record overall.
And, while Toronto right-hander Drew Hutchison is enjoying as decent start to the 2014 season (3.68 ERA; 1.43 WHIP), he is hampered by an imploding Toronto bullpen that set a franchise record by issuing eight walks during the eighth inning of last night’s game against the Twins. Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos and J.A. Happ combined to allow six runs on eight walks and three wild pitches! It was the first time a team walked that many batters in one inning since the Orioles did it on April 19, 1996.
Overall, Toronto relievers owns a pedestrian 3.86 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 2014, including a 5.18 ERA and 1.52 WHIP on the road, a 4.29 ERA and 1.40 WHIP at night and a 4.32 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over the last seven games. From a technical standpoint, Cleveland is 51-23 (+26.9 units) versus teams averaging less than 4.3 runs per game and 52-23 (+20.8 units) as favorites, including 33-12 (+15.9 units) as favorites between -125 to -175. Finally, the situational analysis strongly favors Cleveland as the Blue Jays were forced to play a double-header yesterday in frigid temperatures in Minnesota. Take Cleveland and invest with confidence.