Aces in the Hole: Dumping the Master?


The aces in the hole feature is designed to help readers get a leg up on the opposition by uncovering hidden short-term value on your league’s waiver wire. This feature will analyze a few possible two start pitchers to target for Week 11. Only pitchers owned in less than 40% of both Y! and ESPN leagues will be examined in this piece. If you seek two start options for the current week, click here. For a close look at week 10 streaming options, Rob Adams presents his Week 10 Stream Team right here.

In my personal experience playing in weekly leagues, it always seems like the best 2 start options get gobbled up as soon as lineups set for the week before. The two start pitcher lists that get published by most sites are helpful for organizing what you already have on your roster, but they will not help you pick anybody up if your league plays like mine do, because they come out too late. It was this shortfall that gave me the idea to publish my two start pitcher list the week before.

I may, however, have misjudged the market. I want to hear from you, the reader. Is this series helpful? I am considering discontinuing the Aces in the Hole series in pursuit of other, more relevant issues for most fantasy players, but I will keep it going if our loyal readers find it useful. Please let me know!

Before we get into the picks for week 11, let’s take a look at how last week’s picks fared:

Jose Quintana: Quintana pitched quite well this week with an ERA of 3.00, a WHIP of 1.16, a win and 5 Ks in 6 innings. The problem is that the Sox bumped his second start back so that Sale could go twice. As a result, Quintana lost a tasty date with the Padres.

Now for a close look at this week’s featured arm:

Justin Masterson

Masterson is owned in 55% of Y! leagues and 42% of ESPN leagues.

Last season, Justin Masterson was a fantasy ace. He won 14 games and struck out a batter an inning with an ERA of 3.45 and a WHIP of 1.20. This year, he is really struggling with an ERA of 5.21 and a WHIP of 1.54. Numbers like that are enough to make a roto owner sick to their stomach.

Over the course of his career, Masterson has tended to alternate between good and bad seasons. His best years have made him a key contributor even in the shallowest of mixed leagues, but he has been a liability in his worst seasons.

There are two questions here. First, what is the difference between this year’s version and last year’s? Secondly, is it time to cut ties with Justin Masterson?

Ks and BBs

In 2013, Masterson posted career bests in K/9 (9.09), K/BB (2.57), and K% (24.3). This season, he still sits above his career average in K/9 (7.75), but his K% has dropped to 19%. Masterson’s swinging strike percentage is actually slightly higher this season (9.4% vs. 9.2%), but he is not getting as many hitters to chase pitches outside the zone and hitters are both offering at, and making contact with pitches inside the zone at a higher rate.

Masterson has never really been an elite control artist, but this season his BB/9 sits at a career high 4.41 and his BB% of 10.8 is higher than it has been since Masterson’s rookie season with the Red Sox.

Perhaps the one thing that is driving these changing rates is the significant dip in Masterson’s velocity. Masterson has lost 2.5 MPH on his fastball and over 2 MPH on both his sinker and slider as well. Peripheral stats suggest that hitters may be seeing the ball better this season than they did last and this large velocity drop could help explain why.

Batted Ball Profile

Masterson’s batted profile still looks quite impressive, and more or less in line with career averages. Batters are hitting the ball on the ground 59.4% of the time and hitting fly balls at just a 21.3% clip. When you consider that Masterson is generating more infield flies (16.3%) than HRs (11.6%), this has the look of a very good pitcher.

One stat that really jumps out this year is Masterson’s IF hit %. 14.2% of ground balls have resulted in infield hits this season. When compared to his career average of 6.8%, that number looks astronomical. That essentially means that Masterson has given up one infield hit for every 10 batters faced this season. That is extremely unlucky, and when combined with the spike in walks it is a recipe for disaster.

Masterson will always give up his share of hits, but he tends to limit HRs and keep the ball in the infield. These facts are just as true today as they were last season.

Trouble vs. Lefties

The velocity drop is very concerning to me. Masterson has always had a tough time getting lefties out, but now he is throwing batting practice to them. Masterson’s career wOBA vs. lefties sits at .348. Last season it was a manageable .316, but this year it is a ridiculous .402. Masterson is essentially making every lefty he faces look like prime Babe Ruth (Ok, not quite that good).


If you have a lot of bench spots, then Masterson is worth holding to see if he can rebound. His K rate proves that he still has the ability to strike guys out and his batted ball profile looks dreamy. If he is able to regain some of his lost command, then he could pitch near or below his ERA indicators which all sit near 4.00, but he will likely continue to be a WHIP whale.

The trouble is, with his inability to get lefties out and the velocity drop, Masterson looks like a streamer play from here on out. I just don’t see how anybody could use him with confidence against any lineup that has more than a couple solid lefty bats.

In standard sized mixed leagues, I think it is time to move on from Masterson. Whether you choose to use the free roster spot on a streamer or on a prospect, either route will likely do more good for your team than Masterson. Barring a velocity spike, Masterson needs to be on most free agent lists.


Two Start Pitchers

Jordan Lyles, Colorado Rockies, vs. ATL (Floyd) @SF (Vogelsong)

Lyles is owned in 28% of Y! leagues and 27% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: Lyles does a good job keeping the ball on the ground (a non-negotiable trait for Coors Field success) and his walk rate is not prohibitive. He has pitched well at home this year and the matchups are favorable. The Braves are ranked last in the majors in wOBA vs. RHP and the Giants are middle of the pack.

Cons: Lyles has given up lots of line drives this year. If this continues, his ERA will not stay as low as it has been. Also, although the Giants are not a great offensive club, they do have a lot of power. They have an iso of .162 against right-handed pitching.

Final Verdict: This one is not a slam dunk, but Lyles is a solid pitcher and he has above average matchups this week.

Jordan Lyles: Green Light: All Systems Go!

Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants vs. WAS (Zimmerman), COL (Lyles)

Vogelsong is owned in 30% of Y! leagues and 34% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: Vogelsong’s numbers look a lot like they did back in 2012 when he was mixed league relevant. His Ks are back up and BBs and HRs are down. Prior to his Thursday outing in St. Louis, Vogelsong was one of the hottest pitchers in the national league, allowing just 6 earned runs in his last 6 starts. He has been fantastic at home this year (2.15 ERA vs. 5.40 away) and he has 2 solid matchups. The Nats are below average against righties and the Rockies, although very good, tend to perform much better at home.

Cons: The Rockies are #1 in the majors in wOBA and 2nd in iso against right-handed pitchers. While they are much better at home, they are still pretty good. Also, the Rox shelled Vogelsong at Coors Field early in the season.

Final Verdict: I am willing to give Vogelsong a pass for the shelling at Coors Field. He is pitching very well at the moment and is worth using next week.

Ryan Vogelsong: Green Light: All Systems Go!

Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs @PIT (Cole) @PHI (Buchanen or Lee)

Jackson is owned in 4% of Y! leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: Jackson’s Ks are up this year along with a surging swinging strike rate. Jackson has had 3 games with 9+ Ks and his ERA indicators are all far below his actual ERA. The matchups this week are as good as any pitcher in the majors. Pittsburgh is 17th in wOBA against righties and Philly is 27th.

Cons: Jackson has been very hittable and has given up too many line drives. He has also struggled on the road and he got lit up by Pittsburgh in one of his outings against them.

Final Verdict: Jackson’s matchups appear to be above average, but he is a huge gamble. While he offers great K upside, owners have to weigh that against the risk of a blow up on the road.

Edwin Jackson: Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.


More Two Start Pitchers

Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels vs. OAK, @CHW – Shoemaker looks good, but he is not getting deep into games. As bad as the Braves have been vs. RHP, the A’s completely cancel that out.

Bronson Arroyo, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. HOU, vs. LAD – The Houston matchup looks good, but the Dodgers are scary. Arroyo is solid, but the matchups are below average.

Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals vs. NYY, @CHW – Neither offense fares as well against lefties as they do against righties, but they can still put up runs. The White Sox tagged Vargas for 7 earned runs earlier this year.


Red Light: Use at Your Own Risk.

Gavin Floyd, Atlanta Braves @COL, vs. LAA – Floyd has pitched well, but I am not sure you could find more difficult matchups for him.

Josh Collmenter, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. HOU, vs. LAD- I would consider him against the Astros, but not the Dodgers.

Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros @ARZ, vs. TB – Cosart has above average matchups, but he walks too many hitters and he is a below average pitcher.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore Orioles vs. BOS, vs. TOR – Jimenez makes his first appearance of the year in streamer land. There is a reason he is here and you should not use him against two explosive offensive clubs.

Juan Nicasio, Colorado Rockies vs. ATL, @SF – The matchups are good, but I can’t trust Nicasio.

Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox @BAL, @CLE – Workman is an average pitcher, but the matchups here are not great.

John Danks, Chicago White Sox vs. DET, vs. KC – Detroit is not as good against lefties, but still.

Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs @PIT, @PHI – Wood has been horrendous on the road with an 8.04 ERA. While he is not this bad, it is still hard to trust him in week 11.

Miguel Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles vs. BOS, vs. TOR – I don’t trust a homer prone pitcher against the Blue Jays.

Vidal Nuno, New York Yankees @KC, @OAK – The matchups are OK, but Nuno has struggled as an SP.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, New York Mets vs. MIL, vs. SD- The matchups are great, but Matsuzaka has been outside my circle of trust for a long time.

J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays vs. MIN, @ BAL- Happ is not good enough for me to trust him.

Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins @TOR, @DET- Good luck to any who use Nolasco!

Hector Noesi, Chicago White Sox vs. DET, vs. KC- NO WAY!


Rainouts and rotation changes can strike at any minute, so be sure to check back in the comment section for updates. If your league has a Sunday night line-up deadline, feel free to ask me your SP questions on twitter (@tlandseadel). I will respond to any question posed before 9 PM EST.

Keep in mind, all of the pitchers analyzed here are high risk options. Some will pan out, some will not. I would never advise anyone to start a mediocre two-start option or a streamer instead of a bona fide fantasy ace. These suggestions may make sense for owners in points leagues and category based leagues that tend to reward quantity over quality. They are best used to supplement your pitching staff, not to support it. If your league uses an innings maximum and/or rewards a quality focus, then you might want to set your standards a little higher.

Tommy Landseadel

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Tommy is also known as tlance on the CBS and Sports Hoopla message boards. He has been playing fantasy baseball for 16 years in many different format types and looks forward to helping you with your fantasy baseball questions! You can now follow me on Twitter @tlandseadel

16 thoughts on “Aces in the Hole: Dumping the Master?”

  1. Tommy… you do a wonderful job in these articles. Do you think Masterson not being able to “work” the tribe for a Bailey contract has anything to do with his poor showing or was Cleveland astute in not paying him a premium?

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I think this could be a little of both. All players respond differently to the pressures of impending free agency. It could be that Masterson is feeling anxious and it is affecting his performance on the mound. At the same time, I think the velocity drop certainly makes the Indians look pretty good for not signing him to a big deal.

      At the end of the day, Masterson will still get a nice deal next year. He is very valuable to real life teams as a durable innings eater, but I doubt that he gets ace level money.

  2. I prefer Skaggs to Masterson. He won’t get quite as many K’s, but he has excellent control and should be an asset in the WHIP category without hurting your ERA too much.

    Masterson was awesome tonight, which he will be at times, but he still walked 4. He has the talent, but will not be consistent without more velocity and better control.

  3. Masterson was wild last night for three innings, but escaped a bases loaded 3-0 count on the next batter without a run and then proceeded to throw 25 straight strikes and make it to through the 7th with a shut out. This is the stuff that makes us love baseball.

  4. 12 team h2h weekly points keeper league

    a 4th place team but being quickly sliding down since I was ravaged by injuries., slowly fading with Jose F. , Weiters, Votto, Cain all hurt and Cano not doing much.

    My Cano, votto, Beckett for Kipnis, Hardy, and mike Minor

    Big bats are cano, votto, Mauer, Craig, Morneau, pence, Alvarez, Yelich, Alex Gordon, bogaerts, Reyes

    Staff is Gerrit cole, Cain, Ian Kennedy, Hutchinson and Beckett.

    Stashed Polanco and Harvey as keepers and just grabbed Singleton.

    I can think of reasons pro and con all day on the deal. What do you think in a points league? I don’t like Vottos knee and cano isn’t really that much better than Kipnis this year. I do like Minor, but is that too much to give, or am I just stuck on names and not production. Pitching tends to rule here. Thanks!

  5. I would not do this. If we assume that Kipnis and Cano are equal, then I believe that Beckett is much closer to Minor than Hardy is to Votto. I do not think you will benefit by trading Votto right now, because this would mean selling him for pennies on the dollar.

    1. That’s not bad. With your nice grab of Singleton, this might be a move I’d make. I think you’re still selling a little low, but I understand the concerns about Vott’s injury/production. With Singleton’s addition and Polanco’s impending promotion, you should be able to withstand any loss to your offense. I’d just make sure that was the best you can get.

  6. I think that deal is more than fair in a pitcher dominated league. I would jump on it.

    If your league drafted today, where would Greinke go? In a league where pitching is weighed so heavily, I would guess mid third to early 4th. I am not sure Votto gets taken til the 5th or so given his concerns.

    Are you selling a little low, sure, but I think the return here is a good one.

  7. Thanks fellas. Little update. He balked at Greinke but me and my buddy settled on my Votto, Cain and Yelich for his Cole Hamels, Michael Brantley and JJ Hardy. That’s pretty good for me, no?

    1. I hate to be negative…but I don’t like it. I don’t think Brantley/Hardy for Yelich/Cain is a plus (at best it’s neutral, though I take Yelich side) and Hamels is a downgrade from Greinke (where I was comfortable dealing Votto).
      Hopefully I’m wrong and Hardy blows up for you and Brantley continues his hot start 🙂
      Good luck!!

  8. I have to agree with Paul. This deal will be won or lost on Hamels vs. Cain. I think those two are pretty close, but you will need Hamels to greatly outperform Cain to win this deal. Brantley is an upgrade over Yelich, but not a big one and then you take a massive hit in the Votto for Hardy swap.

    It could work for you, but I prefer his side.

    1. Thanks for the comment Nicole. I think I will be focusing on writing the feature pieces from here on out, but if you ever have a question about a 2 start pitcher, feel free to ask on twitter.

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