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Justin Masterson threw 104 pitches last night and 103 of them were fastballs

Jul 20, 2011, 3:47 PM EST

Justin Masterson AP

Justin Masterson shut out the Twins for 7.2 innings last night, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out six, and remarkably did so while throwing fastballs on 103 of his 104 pitches. Seriously.

His timing was especially amusing because just a few hours earlier Sam Miller wrote a Baseball Prospectus column about all-fastball repertoires and wondered how long it would be before someone went with 100 percent heat in a start.

Masterson was damn close, throwing just one slider among 104 offerings, and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (at the Twitter urging of an intrigued Miller) talked to the right-hander about why he bothered using the one non-fastball:

Well, you know, we thought we’d probably use it more. That one would hopefully kind of put it in the back of the head like, “Oh, later on in the innings, is he going to throw one here? Is he not?”

Along with that little intro to Game Theory he also said the approach was a case of “don’t change what’s working.” In other words, if the Twins kept showing that they couldn’t hit his fastball why did he need to throw anything else? Masterson got six strikeouts and 15 ground-ball outs while allowing zero extra-base hits, and only a Chris Perez blown save kept him from winning a 1-0 game while throwing one pitch slower than 90 miles per hour.

I’ve been skeptical of Masterson as a starter because I wondered if his lack of secondary pitches would eventually force a move to the bullpen, but that looks kind of silly right now. He has a 2.64 ERA and 101/40 K/BB ratio in 136 innings spread over 20 starts this season and, as Bastian notes, he’s thrown 82 percent fastballs.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    That is an awesome quote by Masterson. I’ve never watched the guy pitch so maybe somebody can answer this for me; does he have late movement or a lot of movement on his fastball?

    • baseballisboring - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      It’s really more of a sinker, so yes.

    • spudchukar - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Both, he throws sidearm, which augments his downward and sideways movement. As you might imagine if you throw sidearm it is easier to rotate your wrist over/on top of the ball creating sink. His velocity is more than respectable. I think he can hit 95 consistently. So when he has command he can be one tough hombre.

  2. FC - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    It could be the fastball has enough movement that the batters get confused.

    • schrutebeetfarms - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:40 PM

      Twins sure looked confused. Sort of sad they couldn’t hit fastballs.

      • kopy - Jul 20, 2011 at 5:56 PM

        Do you belittle everyone that can’t hit Mariano Rivera too?

  3. sknut - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    When Craig referenced that in ATH this morning, I thought it was some sort of joke. Its very impressive and he looked real good last night.

  4. Joe - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Sinkers are like knuckleballs in a way. If it’s working good enough, hitters aren’t going to make solid contact anyway.

    • baseballisboring - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      True. I remember Derek Lowe threw a no-hitter while he was with the Sox where he threw something like 4 off-speed pitches the whole game.

  5. theonlynolan - Jul 20, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    When he was with the sox the front office didn’t think he’d stick as a starter because of his pitching motion. As a right hander his career splits against righties are far superior to his numbers against lefties. A .604 ops against righties vs. a .785 ops while facing lefties. This year those numbers have been less dramatic so maybe he’s figured something out to help retire LHB. I hope so when he was with the Red Sox he always seemed like a good guy. Hard not to root for him.

  6. aceshigh11 - Jul 20, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Masterson is a stud pitcher. Always enjoyed watching him.

    I wish the Sox hadn’t traded him, although we did get 1 1/2 productive years out of V-Mart.

  7. wlschneider09 - Jul 20, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    Give ‘em the heat, Ricky…

  8. randomdigits - Jul 20, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    An urban legend states that Palmer went a whole game throwing nothing but fastballs in response to Weaver telling him to throw more curves. He didn’t throw a shutout but it was a CG victory.

  9. browniebuck - Jul 20, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    In defense of Chris Perez, it wasn’t just his blown save that blew the victory…having Luis Valbuena in left field CERTAINLY didn’t help AT ALL!

    I wouldn’t call Masterson’s delivery sidearm, more 3/4. When he is on, he won’t throw a fastball that is straight…they all have late movement, whether it be sinking, comeback movement, or last night he threw a couple that appeared to rise.

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