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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | September 21, 2017

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Opening Day Master

Opening Day Master

| On 09, Apr 2014

While Tribe starter Justin Masterson was certainly roughed up in Sunday’s start against the Twins, nothing can be taken away from his dominating performance last Monday night in Oakland while most of us in Ohio were sleeping.  Granted, Masterson did not get the victory in the Indians Opening Day win, but he did toss seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out four.  It was anything but Masterson’s fault that the offense did not score until the ninth inning.

Masty’s domination of the Athletics in the opener certainly looked familiar, as this is nothing that he hasn’t done before.  In 2012, Masterson took a really hard-luck no decision on Opening Day in Cleveland when former closer Chris Perez blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth.  Masterson had tossed eight innings allowing just two hits and one run with 10 strikeouts before the game turned into a marathon 16-inning loss to the Blue Jays.  Last year in Toronto, Masterson battled through four walks but allowed just a single run and three hits through six innings of work as the Tribe won 4-1 north of the border.

In all, Masterson’s stat line for his trifecta of openers is pretty impressive.  Although he has only one victory to show for it, his other statistics remain top-notch and made me wonder where he ranks all-time amongst the other historic, Opening Day Tribe starters.

To find out, I composed a maybe-scientific experiment where I compiled all of the pitchers that had made three or more Opening Day starts in Indians history.  I found out that there were 14 men who met these qualifications, but two of them had to be thrown out because individual game logs are not available prior to the 1914 season.  Therefore, Hall of Famer Addie Joss and old-time southpaw Willie Mitchell are both thrown out of the contest, making only pitchers from the previous 100 years eligible.  The reason I limited the running of “Best Indians Opening Day Pitcher Ever” to those with three or more starts is three-fold:

  1. Three seemed like a good number.
  2. The number of pitchers I would have to calculate statistics for was cut from 58 to 12.
  3. That’s how many starts Masterson has made, making my point for this article.

So three it is, eliminating the likes of Rick Wise (1979), Jaret Wright (1999), Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez (2011) and 43 others.

I compiled the statistics for all 12 eligible starters, Masterson included, and presented a nameless sheet to four “baseball minds.”  The sheet looked as such:

 

G:

Rec:

IP:

ER:

R:

H:

K:

BB:

 Av  GSc:

ERA:

WHIP:

A

6

3-2

48.1

15

19

44

20

13

57.33333

2.79

1.18

B

3

3-0

27

2

5

24

13

14

66

0.67

1.41

C

3

1-2

27

6

8

25

11

9

61.66667

2.00

1.26

D

7

4-3

52

7

8

23

39

20

71.57143

1.21

0.83

E

5

3-1

41.2

7

10

24

20

14

68.2

1.51

0.91

F

3

1-1

19.1

8

8

14

26

15

57.66667

3.72

1.50

G

4

2-2

31.1

13

13

28

20

9

56.75

3.73

1.18

H

4

0-2

24

24

24

36

12

6

30.25

9.13

1.77

I

3

1-1

20

5

6

12

12

6

62

2.25

0.90

J

3

2-1

21

8

8

16

17

11

57.66667

3.43

1.29

K

5

1-0

27.2

13

13

27

24

10

51.8

4.23

1.34

L

3

1-0

21

2

2

8

19

6

73.33333

0.86

0.67

 The next step was to have my four “baseball-minds” compile a dream-rotation based solely on the statistics on the piece of paper in front of them.  No indication of where the numbers came from was given.

Next, I assigned a scoring system for each vote that a player got, giving the number one starter five points and then the number four starter four points and so on.  I also let mathematics have its day as well, ranking a top five rotation based solely on the statistical categories of ERA and WHIP.  Finally, the highest average Game Score, a statistic invented by baseball-mind and Moneyball author Bill James, was also given a rotation-vote too, so that the sabermetrics people could get a say as well.

When all votes were entered and points tallied, Masterson came out looking pretty good.  Masterson, who was Pitcher L on the sheet, tallied one first place vote and three second place tallies.   He also earned five points for the lowest WHIP, highest average Game Score and got four points for the second lowest ERA.  Pitcher B, who is George Uhle, received three first place votes and earned points for lowest ERA and third highest Game Score.  The only other pitcher who came close was Pitcher D, Bob Feller, who earned one third place vote as well as three fourth place tallies.  Feller remains the only pitcher in history to fire a no hitter on Opening Day.

When all was said and done, Masterson walked away as the number one starter in the all-time Indians Opening Day starting rotation.  The rest of the lineup shook out as such:

  1. Masterson (Pitcher L—2012-14—31 points)
  2. Uhle (Pitcher B—1926-28—22 points)
  3. Feller (Pitcher D—1939-41, 46-49—21 points)
  4. Bob Lemon (Pitcher E—1950-51, 53, 55-56—16 points)
  5. Dennis Martinez (Pitcher I—1994-96—10 points)

Outside of the starting five, the only other pitchers to receive any points were Stan Coveleski (Pitcher A—1917-21, 23—5 points) and Gaylord Perry (Pitcher G—1972-75—1 point).  The other pitchers that didn’t make the cut were Mel Harder (Pitcher C), Sam McDowell (Pitcher F), Charles Nagy (Pitcher H), Bartolo Colon (Pitcher J) and CC Sabathia (Pitcher K).

Surprising as it may be, current Indian Justin Masterson is arguably the most dominant Opening Day starting pitcher in the franchise’s long history.  While he may not have the resume of some of the other names on the list like Hall of Famers Feller, Lemon or Perry or superstars like McDowell, Martinez or Sabathia, Masterson could give us all something to look forward to at the beginning of each year.

Here’s to hoping he sticks around long enough to help further my argument.

Photo: Ben Margot/AP Photo