As of right now, the Tampa Bay Rays (I didn’t say Devil!) are tied with the Cubs for the best record in baseball. They are playing with confidence and really seem to feel they belong at the top. Some of this confidence stems from the knowledge that, every fifth day, Scott Kazmir will toe the rubber. The actually productive component of arguably the worst trade of all time broke out last season, leading everyone without the luxury of an 163rd game in strikeouts.
Oddly enough, Kazmir missed the entire month of April and the Rays still managed to go 15-12. Since his return he has not missed a beat and the team is currently 31-21.
In five starts he has gone for 30 innings, giving up 19 hits and 10 walks, striking out 32 in the process. Omitting his first start, Kazmir has gone 26 innings, giving up just 13 hits and 7 walks, with 27 strikeouts to boot; additionally, his last four starts have an average game score of 71.
Kazmir is yet to surrender a home run and has kept runners off base as evidenced by his 0.97 WHIP. Those who do manage to get on have been stranded 79.3% of the time. He has been in the 1.27-1.48 WHIP range the last three seasons primarily due to his walks. Since he does not surrender many hits—a .247 BAA from ’05-’07—he should experience even more success with some added control.
Now, 79.3% is quite high for LOB but if/when he regresses and more runners score, it does not mean he will not be effective; rather, he just won’t be Sandy Koufax anymore.
Last year he posted his highest BABIP against at .341; spreading his balls in play with 15.6% LD, 43.1% GB, and 41.3% FB, Kazmir may have been a bit unlucky. This year, surrendering 7% more line drives (22.7%), he currently has just a .265 BABIP. His career numbers also suggest this frequency of line drives should decrease to the 18% range.
When put together, all of this suggests Kazmir’s production may not sustain its current pace, but a slightly regressing Scott Kazmir is still better than the vast majority of major league pitchers.
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