Saturday, August 29, 2009
Is Scott Kazmir really done as an ace?Posted by Evan Brunell
Today, the trade sending Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor league players (LHP Alex Torres, 3B Matt Sweeney) and a player to be named later is official.
Keith Law. Rob Neyer. Matthew Pouliot.) with the general consensus being that Kazmir is no longer an ace and will not return to being an ace.
At 25 years old, is Kazmir really finished?
From 2005-8, when Kazmir anchored the Rays rotation, he racked up a 45-34 record with a 3.51 ERA in 689.2 innings with a K/BB ratio of 2.39, striking out 742.
Out of his 144 career starts, 36 -- or 25 percent of all his starts -- have come against the vaunted Red Sox and Yankees. What has he done in those starts? Try 208.1 innings, 3.20 ERA, 220 whiffs. This was all at the ages of 20-24. That's certifiably insane.
Kazmir spent some time on the disabled list early on in 2008 with a strained left elbow then assumed a big workload en route to the Rays' first postseason -- and World Series -- appearance. Kazmir got 2009 off to a fine start before tumbling fast and being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad strain May 22. He was activated from the disabled list June 27 and only recently started firing the ball better. You can see here that he's struggled with his K/9 all year, the struggles coming with his injury woes.
As a result, his average velocity has dipped to 90.7 mph off his fastball, after being at 93.7 in 2004. Over his career, he's averaging 91.9 mph. One promising aspect of Kazmir's pitching this year is the return of his slider, which he largely shelved last year and can be traced to his strained left elbow in 2008 causing him trouble.
So, let me get this straight. Yes, Kazmir has a 5.92 ERA on the season, but his FIP is 4.79. He's struggled with injury this year, being lit up in five of his seven games prior to going on the disabled list. He struggled with inconsistency on his return, but has turned in three straight solid starts, the last one against Toronto coming with one walk against 10 strikeouts.
All this tells me that Kazmir is far from done being an ace. Yes, he might end up being an injury-prone starter for the next coming years. Yes, maybe Law, Neyer and Pouliot are all onto something. But 'Kaz' is being written off completely in this trade, which makes zero sense to me. He still has the talent to be an ace, and I'm guessing you'll see him at the top of the Angels' rotation next year, leading them to the playoffs.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.