Yesterday, Getting Blanked contributor and master of the Annotated Box Score, Sam Miller, wrote an amusing column for Baseball Prospectus in which he expressed his desire to one day see a starting pitcher throw nothing but fastballs for an entire game.
As he noted:
I’m dying for an all-fastball game. Sometimes, the announcers pay attention to what’s going on, and they sound almost giddy by the end of the second inning. It’s like they’ve stolen the other team’s signs, or developed the ability to tell the future, or at least found something to talk about besides the shadows that are creeping in around the mound. An all-fastball game would make everybody feel smart for noticing it.
Twenty-three times this year starting pitchers have thrown at least 86 percent fastballs (minimum 80 pitches) in a game. Bartolo Colon, Justin Masterson, and Charlie Morton account for 17 of them. Happily for fans of the Rule of Three, Colon, Masterson, and Morton are also all surprise successes this year. They’re each a bit different in their reliance on the fastball and in how they got to be all-fastball threats, but together they raise a question: Are secondary pitches really necessary?
Roughly eighteen hours after the article was posted, the Cleveland Indians Justin Masterson was leaving his start against the Minnesota Twins in the eighth inning, without allowing a single run on four hits and no walks, while striking out six batters with 104 pitches.
Of his 104 pitches, only one was off speed:
Masterson threw a single slider all game. While he mixed up his four seam fastball with a sinking fastball, both pitches averaged similar enough speeds (four seam: 94.1 mph; sinker: 93.3 mph) to almost make Miller’s dream almost come true.
As you can see in the chart below, the two pitches are quite similar with the sinking fastball having a little bit more vertical drop and a little less horizontal movement.
The New York Yankees Bartolo Colon is the only starter to have relied as heavily on his fastball as Justin Masterson this season, throwing the heat 84.9% of the time in comparison to Masterson’s 81.8%, but no starting pitcher in baseball has gone an entire game this season while tossing a higher percentage of fastball’s than the Indians righty last night.
In summary: If Sam Miller isn’t a warlock, he’s clearly practicing some sort of witchcraft.