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Indians 2014 preview and predictions: Justin Masterson

He'll be starting come Opening Day. What kind of numbers will Masterson put up in 2014?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This post is part of a contest in which you could win a free Let's Go Tribe t-shirt. In order to enter, just copy and paste the template at the bottom of this post into the comments, then fill in each category with your own prediction for how this player will do in 2014. Position players and pitchers will be featured as two separate contests. You need not submit predictions for every single player in either contest in order to win, but doing so will increase your chances, as points will be awarded separately for each player.

For pitchers, you'll be asked to predict each player's innings (IP), wins (W), ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate (K/9), and walk rate (BB/9). For relief pitchers there will be saves instead of wins.

Find every previous entry in the series here.

The comments on each post in this series will remain open through Saturday, March 29.

Justin Masterson

2013 Recap:

Coming off the worst season of his career, Masterson bounced back in a big way in 2013. In his first two starts of the year, Masterson was opposed by R.A. Dickey and David Price, 2012's two Cy Young recipients. He out-dueled them both, and became the first pitcher ever to beat both reigning winners in the first month of a season. Masterson pitched 3 shutouts (tied for the most in MLB) and also made his first All-Star team. Justin exited his September 2nd start after recording only 3 outs, due to a strained ribcage. He didn't pitch for the Indians again for more than 3 weeks, when he was used as a reliever during the final week of the season.

Masterson used his slider far more often in 2013 than he had in years past, and it was one of the best sliders in baseball. Due in part to that adjustment, Masterson posted the highest strikeout rate of his career, 9.1 per 9 innings, two full whiffs above his career rate prior to 2013. Even factoring in the injury, it was a very good year for Masterson.

Recent stats for Masterson:
Year Age Tm W L ERA GS IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2011 26 CLE 12 10 3.21 33 216.0 122 1.278 8.8 0.5 2.7 6.6
2012 27 CLE 11 15 4.93 34 206.1 79 1.454 9.2 0.8 3.8 6.9
2013 28 CLE 14 10 3.45 29 193.0 109 1.202 7.3 0.6 3.5 9.1

2014 Preview and Projections:

Masterson will be the Tribe's Opening Day starter for the third year in a row. He's been tremendous thus far in spring training, having appeared in four Cactus League games, throwing a total of 13 innings, all without allowing a run. He's got 14 strikeouts to date, against only 2 walks and 6 hits. He's also headed into his final season before free agency. Masterson has reportedly offered to stay with the team another 3 or 4 seasons, for no more than $15 million a year, and hopefully something gets worked out.

Masterson seems poised to have a very good year for the Indians.

Here are a variety of projections for Masterson's 2014 season, all of which are available on his player page at FanGraphs, where you can find more detail, if you're so inclined:

System IP W ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9
Steamer 192.0 12 3.89 1.33 7.8 3.3
Oliver 205.0 12 3.47 1.30 .7.5 3.3
ZiPS 196.0 12 3.78 1.29 8.3 3.3

My Two Cents:

I'm surprised by how bearish both Steamer and ZiPS are on Masterson. It's also interesting to me that Oliver has the lowest strikeout rate, but the best ERA. I think Masterson will turn in a similar season to his 2013, with slightly decreased strikeout and walk rates. Put me down for 214 innings, 16 wins, a 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9.

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