For the Rays, Scott Kazmir was no longer worth the rotation spot or the money. Just over a year after signing him to a three-year, $28.5 million contract, which included a $13.5 million team option for 2012, the Rays found themselves all but out of contention in the AL East. Kazmir and his contract cleared waivers in August and the Rays used that opening to trade him to the Angels for Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres, and Matt Sweeney. With the prospects in hand and payroll freed, the deal was a win for the Rays. Considering how well Kazmir pitched down the stretch for the Angels, they must have considered it a win, too.
Ten months later, however, the Angels probably have changed their opinion. While Kazmir showed signs of life in September, he failed them in October, giving up five runs against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS, a game the Angels eventually won in the late innings. He didn’t find much more success in his one ALCS start. The Yankees hit him up for four runs in four innings, leading to a 10-1 Angels loss. This year we’re seeing far more starts like that than like the ones Kazmir made in September.
Pick a number, any number, and you’ll see some real horrorshow stuff. His ERA, FIP, xFIP, and tERA all come in above the 5.00 mark, the ERA the worst of them all at 5.67. His strikeouts are down, 6.11 per nine, while his walks, 4.56 per nine, are back up to 2005 levels. At least then he could strike out hitters and keep the ball in the park. This year Kazmir has done neither particularly well. He’s also pitching fewer innings than ever, just 5.4 per game. While he’s never lasted long into games — his highest IP/GS rate was 6.1 in 2007 — 5.4 is a new low. Yet he’s still tossing an average of 101 pitches per start, which goes to show just how inefficient he’s been.
At home he’s been particularly bad, getting roughed up for 25 runs, 24 earned, in just 29.2 IP. Yet even on the road he’s been a mess, his walk rate over five per nine. While his road ERA is two and a half points below his home mark, that has a lot to do with the discrepancy in his strand rate, 74.4 percent on the road and 57.3 percent at home. That low home strand rate might be the one bright spot on his record.
A further problem is that teams are stacking their righties in the lineup. Of the 370 batters he’s faced this year, 301 have batted right-handed. He’s actually done a better job of striking out righties, whiffing 17.3 percent of them against just 4 percent of lefties. But he’s also walking righties more, which is a huge part of his problem this season.
It appeared as thought he might have turned things around to start June, as he allowed just six runs in four starts. Those results, however, are misleading. He still threw only 23 innings, or about 5.2 per start. In that span he struck out 15 to 13 walks. He was greatly aided by a .261 BABIP. So, predictably, when some of those balls in play started to drop for hits Kazmir again struggled. He’s allowed five runs in each of his last two starts, including last night against division-leading Texas, lasting just 8.1 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio: 6:4. His BABIP: .414.
The Angels, who trail the Rangers by 4.5 games in the AL West, have to do something about the two lefties in their rotation if they’re going to make a run at the division or the Wild Card (they’re 3.5 games back of the Red Sox). Joe Saunders has been every bit as bad as Kazmir this year, though he’s managed to keep a few more runs off the board. If any team could benefit from the addition of a pitcher, even a second-tier arm like Ben Sheets, Brett Myers, or Kevin Millwood, it’s the Angels. If they want to play catch-up in the second half they’re going to have to do something about Kazmir.