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The 2014 IBI Awards: Least Valuable Pitcher

Masterson's rough season ends with a runaway win in the LVP voting

The 2014 IBI Awards: Least Valuable Pitcher
Justin Masterson (Photo:
October 9, 2014
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Welcome to the third annual edition of the IBI Awards!

At the end of every year, we here at IBI vote on various categories relating to Cleveland baseball as we continue looking back on 2014 ahead of our 2015 offseason coverage.

Today is the fourth installment of the IBI Awards, the Least Valuable Pitcher.

Previous awards for this season include:

Once again, there was a clear runaway winner in this category, though that did not stop me from somehow not siding with the majority. Ever the contrarian I guess.

Rank Name Points
1 Justin Masterson 54
2 Josh Tomlin 31
T-3 John Axford 26
T-3 Zach McAllister 26
5 Josh Outman 9
6 Carlos Carrasco 4
T-7 C.C. Lee 3
T-7 Vinnie Pestano 3
T-9 Danny Salazar 2
T-9 Austin Adams 2
11 Nick Hagadone 1

Though most people went with Masterson (whom I had second), I had Axford at the top of my ballot. It was a tight race for me, but Axford’s problems with walks and home runs gave him the “edge” in this category for me.

Beyond Axford and Masterson, a trio of disappointing relievers in Outman, Lee, and Pestano rounded out my ballot.

Here is what the rest of IBI had to say:

Tony Lastoria:

  1. Masterson
  2. Tomlin
  3. McAllister
  4. Axford
  5. Outman

This was a tough one to vote for since many of my candidates are no longer with the team or had limited roles, so I expect the opinions to vary greatly on this. Considering his status as staff ace going into the season I put Masterson at the top of my list because of the poor season he had that not only had a significant effect on the Indians postseason chances, but ruined his chances to cash in big in free agency this offseason. Tomlin and McAllister struggled in the limited chances they had in the rotation, though McAllister looked better late in the season when he returned from Triple-A Columbus. Axford and Outman were offseason acquisitions who disappointed in the pen, had their roles reduced and were later traded.

Hayden Grove:

  1. Masterson
  2. McAllister
  3. Tomlin
  4. Carrasco
  5. Salazar

Just as was the case with the Most Valuable Hitter and Most Valuable Pitcher, the Least Valuable Pitcher race was won long ago. Justin Masterson -- the purported ace of this Indians staff heading into the 2014 season- was far and away the least valuable arm on this staff, so much so that the Indians couldn’t stand to keep him for the entirety of this season. Masterson was a disaster from the beginning, with little to no command on his oft-moving offerings, and made the Indians look like geniuses for avoiding a massive contract-extension for Masterson in the offseason.

Michael Goodman:

  1. Masterson
  2. Axford
  3. McAllister
  4. Tomlin
  5. Lee

This one was tough. I really wanted to write in the Indians defense, but I think that’d be missing the point. Masterson is a slam dunk here. His issues really hurt the team in the first half. It’s hard to forget how much of a mess the rotation was early on, and the amount of wins it cost the team. Masterson’s performance was the biggest issue in that ordeal. Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin were others. It wasn’t until all three of those pitchers were taken out of the rotation that the team started pitching well. Still, it does bear mention the huge discrepancies between McAllister and Tomlin’s ERA and FIP. They weren’t good, but they weren’t as bad as the numbers would have you believe. Axford was a bust as closer, and wasn’t much better as a middle reliever. He’s an easy entry on this list. To me, C.C. Lee was a big disappointment in the second half. I had hoped he would come forward and cement a bullpen job for next season but he wasn’t able to do that. I think he still has a decent future with the team, but he missed a big opportunity over the last couple of months.

Jake Dungan:

  1. Masterson
  2. Tomlin
  3. McAllister

The fact that I could only come up with three pitchers for this list just shows how big a step forward the pitching staff took this season. Unfortunately, the team’s top pitcher a year ago tops this list this year as Justin Masterson just could not figure things out as he battled injury and mechanical issues. His free agent value has all but dissolved and his future as a starter may even be in question.

John Vourlis:

  1. Masterson
  2. Axford

Masterson’s season was one of the most disappointing in years, but outside of him and Axford, the pitching staff was outstanding.

Tyler Stotsky:

  1. Masterson
  2. Tomlin
  3. McAllister
  4. Carrasco
  5. Salazar

Masterson and the Indians came into the season with the expectation that Masterson would become the ace of the staff. Unfortunately, he struggled mightily throughout the year and the Indians unloaded him at the trade deadline.

Spencer Davies:

  1. Masterson
  2. Axford
  3. Tomlin
  4. McAllister
  5. Outman

If you would have told me at the beginning the Tribe’s season this year that Justin Masterson would top this list, I would have called you crazy. But it’s happened. The top prospect return for Victor Martinez looked like a top-two guy in the rotation a couple of years ago, but this year he looked the worst that he’s ever been in the major leagues. Whether it was off-the-field distractions with the once-talked about contract extension or a change in mechanics, the Tribe dealt him to St. Louis at the trade deadline where he’s looked just as lost, if not worse than he was in Cleveland.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Vic Venom
October 11, 2014 - 10:44 AM EDT
@CL Who

I look up stats all of the time jack ass. I just dont focus on every fricking stat there is. I dont have my sabermetrics calculator spewing out every "advanced stat." Bottom line is that I think Bauer isn't all that, and you can copy and paste all of these bullshit stats about Bauer, really dont give a fuck.
C L Who
October 10, 2014 - 3:34 PM EDT

Bauer has pitched in the majors in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

His WHIP and ERA have come down, way down. His K:BB ration has improved enormously. His HR per 9 and BB/9 are way, way down.

His pitch velocity on all six of his pitches is up.

I could go on, but you get the point. Look up some stats now and might like it.
Carrasco = Filthy
October 10, 2014 - 4:19 AM EDT
Carrasco's inclusion is laugable. His stock may have jumped the highest of all Indians after 2014.

Masterson is the runaway. It was really sad to see it happen to such a good guy. I think his demeanor in the clubhouse will be missed more than anything.
October 10, 2014 - 4:17 AM EDT
I think that the writers all have it wrong and that Mike has the correct list.

Masterson is clearly at the top (and yes, he should have been traded the minute he declined the extension, that was a bonehead non-move that CA barely salvaged with the acquisition of Ramsey..) along with McAllister (...who cares if he had a good last three weeks coming out of the pen, he was ticketed to be a MOR starter and start 30+ games!).

The others are all in a different category of disappointment for me, as I already had pretty low expectations for Axford, Pestano and Salazar. (that's not saying I didn't have high hopes...)

It's so obvious that Tomlin doesn't belong anywhere near this list as there were really no expectations to speak of (and of course, there still aren't...). And Carrasco should definitely not be on this list, and should be near or at the top of the "most improved player" list.

Don't know what the heck VV is talking about. Bauer had an uneven, but very successful year imo, and yes, the future looks bright for him. I guess some people just get distracted by all the extra stuff...
Vic Venom
October 10, 2014 - 2:48 AM EDT
@CL Who

What are the signs that prove to improvement next season with Bauer??
Vic Venom
October 10, 2014 - 2:45 AM EDT
@Cl Who
4.18 ERA 5-8 record is not impressive at all. I wouldnt want Masterson or Bauer, i think they are both BUMS.

Choo is a bum too, did you see his season? Straight robbing the Rangers for money. I dont think comparing Kluber to finding himself at 27-28 and turning himself into a Cy Young candidate is a fair comparison with Bauer. Bauer has a lot of false hope and "hype" since he was drafted high. Kluber wasn't drafted high, Antonetti got lucky with a trade and he turned out to be a stud pitcher.

Ever since that game last season where Bauer pitched out of the stretch from the start and got shelled by the White Sox, i was done with him forever.
C L Who
October 10, 2014 - 12:46 AM EDT

With all respect, you're losing your mind. The numbers say that Trevor Bauer does not suck.

Which pitcher would you rather have? Bauer, who spends a year in AAA rebuilding his mechanics to the point that he can pitch well enough in the majors to have a 4.00 +/- 0.2 ERA......with all signs showing improvement in 2015?

Or Justin Masterson.....who after every crappy start professed not to know what happened, never invested in correcting his flaws, and ultimately is going to earn a much earlier departure from professional baseball than he envisioned not so long ago.
October 9, 2014 - 9:32 PM EDT
Venom (any subtle intention there?),

We have a guy who at 23 has had some success at the major league level. We have a Cy Young candidate who found himself at circa 27/28.

It is like the Kipnis/JRam debate. We have a 21/22 year old competing with a player who at that age was just graduating from college.

Obtaining Bauer for Choo was IMO brilliant. And just think - we also got Shaw in that trade - plus a good year out of Albers.

Vic Venom
October 9, 2014 - 8:59 PM EDT
The least valuable pitcher IMO was Trevor Bauer. I think this guy is very overrated and a light-weight head case. I am sick of the whole, "I am this pitching phenom/genius who busts hipster freestyle raps, and i have 20 pitches i can throw, and i dont need to be coached." This dude SUCKS. Big time hype and i dont see it with him. I know people are going to say to me, "Well, he's only 23 years old, give him some more time." I am done with him. Too bad there isn't some dumb ass team that would be interested in Bourn and Bauer. I would do that trade lickety split and would be doing cartwheels like Bam Bam Bigelow.
C L Who
October 9, 2014 - 3:19 PM EDT
Masterson's season was more foreseeable than most based on his history. The point, though, is if you know you can't re-sign a player then that player needs to be traded sooner, rather than later, for quite a few reasons.
October 9, 2014 - 2:48 PM EDT
Again who saw Masterson's season or Pestano for that matter the last two years. You never know what you've got until the games begins. Who predicted Atchinson's season, his he next season's Rayburn?
C L Who
October 9, 2014 - 1:43 PM EDT
These lists demonstrate how foolish the FO was not to trade Masterson before ST, when it became clear that he would not sign an extension the Tribe could afford. Especially, with his career history of good season followed by bad, and inconsistent mechanics, and most significantly, no apparent insight into how to address his recurring performance issues.

If he had been traded then, I believe he would have fetched far more than he did, though what the Tribe got seems pretty good. Also, he would have spared Tribe fans the agony of watching his consistently miserable and losing outings.
October 9, 2014 - 1:26 PM EDT
Yeah, I don't know how you could have Carrasco above Salazar on this list. Not only was a lot more expected of Salazar than Carrasco, but Salazar didn't have the 2 months of dominance that Carrasco did to the end the year. Or the 2 months of bullpen dominance. They were equally sucky in April. As much as the offense killed their chances in the second half, Masterson and Salazar, who were expected to anchor the rotation with Kluber, killed them in the first half.
October 9, 2014 - 11:34 AM EDT
Tomlin had -0.6 bWAR but +0.9 fWAR. This is largely due to the different ways these are calculated. bWAR uses RA9, while fWAR uses FIP. fWAR is saying Tomlin was decent, but hurt badly by the defense behind him and the fact that his HR rate was above normal levels. I think we all know the Indians defense was terrible, but also that Tomlin's HR rate is always higher than most because when he doesn't hit his spot, it's a cookie. So, I think it's fair to assume that the truth was somewhere in the middle, and Tomlin was right around replacement level. I'd have Masty, Axford, Pestano, McAllister and then a toss up between Tomlin and Danny, just because my expectations for Danny were much higher than they were for Acta's little cowboy.

Carrasco shouldn't get within 2 city blocks of this list.

All that being said, I love the discussion.
October 9, 2014 - 11:33 AM EDT
I guess that's fair enough, but I think I'm taking into consideration the expectations more than just straight performance comparisons. Salazar was statistically better than Tomlin, sure, but he was expected to be a big piece in 2014 after letting Ubaldo and Kazmir go, and pitched pretty terribly until he was sent down. He was brought back up in late July, so you went almost 2/3 the season without what was supposed to be one of your best starters - a fact that was made tolerable in part by Tomlin's performance in his first two months on the ML roster (and Kluber, obviously).

If you can understand Carrasco being on the list because he didn't meet expectations, then certainly you can understand Salazar being #5 on mine for the same reason and Tomlin being omitted because he exceeded many people's expectations. Tomlin served as a pretty crucial piece when Masterson, Carrasco, Salazar, and McAllister - 4/5s of the opening day rotation - performed well below expectations, and he was the 2nd best starter on the team for 2 months. To me, that was actually extremely valuable because he had his best starts when it looked like Cleveland only had one good starter, and he gave the Indians good starts while guys like Salazar and Carrasco could "get right.

Essentially what I'm saying is that Tomlin was the 2nd best starter for May and June, and to me that's more valuable than Salazar being (arguably) the 3rd/4th best starter in August and September.
October 9, 2014 - 11:27 AM EDT
While I would not have voted for Carrasco, to say that he was dominant out of the bullpen isn't exactly true. He did pitch well but TF usually only used him in blow outs through June (or in games where the bullpen was used up i.e. extra inning games). So for half a year, he either was a failed starter or an afterthought in the bullpen. Thus, I don't think it's pathetic but I do think there are better candidates for this list (Masterson, Axford, McAllister, Pestano and Tomlin. )

I am glad Carlos turned his season around. To be honest, I thought after April that he couldn't be trusted with a lead. I'm glad that I was wrong.
October 9, 2014 - 10:44 AM EDT
Tomlin absolutely should be on the list. He threw over 100 innings this year for the Indians, meaning he had as much impact as someone like Allen, Shaw, etc. He finished with a negative WAR value. And again, when the pitching as a whole was pretty good all year, this happens where a few guys who maybe were not that bad get on the list. But to say Salazar was worse than Tomlin? Maybe earlier in the year....but Salazar's performance when he returned took him off this list if you ask me.
October 9, 2014 - 10:37 AM EDT
Isn't it a little silly to have Tomlin on these lists? He was coming off of TJ surgery and didn't even make the opening day roster - pitched great in AAA and came in and pitched pretty well for 2 months. My list, for what it's worth:

1. Masterson
2. McAllister
3. Axford
4. Pestano
5. Salazar
October 9, 2014 - 10:36 AM EDT
While I agree that Carrasco should not be on the list, I can see why he would me the 5th guy on some lists. For one, the Indians pitching was strong all year minus the few obvious guys, so finding a fifth guy may have been hard for some. And, looking back on it, Carrasco WAS a disappointment the first half of the season. He once again did not meet I can understand how someone maybe used that against him, too. Obviously he was unbelievable the last 6 weeks of the season in the rotation....but prior to that his role was limited in a year he was supposed to be a starter all year.
October 9, 2014 - 10:29 AM EDT
I think it is an absolute joke that Carrasco was on two ballots. He absolutely dominated out of the bullpen since the end of April and was dominant again in the rotation. If he is to be penalized by four starts, let's put Kluber on this list too. Carrasco's first four starts he had an ERA of 6.95. If you look at Kluber's worst 4 starts, his ERA was 10.0! By no means am I saying Kluber didn't have a Cy Young worthy season; I'm saying it's pathetic that Carrasco made this list twice. Absolutely pathetic.

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