We’ve taken a shot at predicting the fantasy value of position players in new digs, and now it’s time to see what a Tampa Bay pitcher can do in the city of Angels.
Scott Kazmir leaves a park in Tampa Bay that is relatively kind to fly ball pitchers and has averaged a .916 park factor for home runs over the past three years. His new home is less forgiving (a 1.01 park factor for big flies over the past three years), something that a pitcher who has recently been giving up more fly balls will not appreciate.
Then again, Kazmir will be leaving the tough American League East and heading to a division with two of the worst offenses in baseball. He might enjoy that more if he didn’t own good records against the Red Sox (8-7, 3.59 ERA) and the Yankees (6-4, 2.53 ERA). On the other hand, he’s had a good run against the AL West, too (12-6, sub-3.10 ERA). In any case, if he takes the fifth starter spot in Anaheim, Kazmir will have some nice matchups in the beginning of September (@SEA, vsSEA) before ending on a rough note (vsCWS, @TEX, vsNYY, vsTEX).
The problem with using his old cumulative records is that Kazmir is no longer the pitcher he used to be. That has to be the reason behind the Rays’ trade, as well. They’ve seen the reduced velocity (he’s lost over two MPH on all of his offerings, and four MPH on his changeup), they’ve noticed that he’s been hurt more often these past two years (150 innings last year and on pace for a similar total this year), and they think they’ve gotten the best of this young pitcher (over $70 million in value over the past five years, against only about $5 million in salary) and were ready to move on before he got more expensive than he was worth. Kudos to them.
A lot has been made of the decline of his slider, which has gone from a plus pitch to a minus one in his five years in Tampa. He’s had arm troubles this year and last, and the slider often gets blamed in times like these. In the end, though, the real concern should be with his fastball, which was one of the best pitches in baseball the last two years and is now a negative. It’s lost velocity, and he’s seemingly lost confidence in the pitch, as he’s throwing it less. Just look at his usage rate of the fastball in recent games. He’s not throwing his fastball with authority and that’s the real issue here.
It’s not likely that Kazmir will suddenly regain his lost form this year. Amazingly, he seems to be fulfilling the prophecy that Jim Duquette fell back on when criticized for his Scott Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano disasterpiece. Kazmir is a relatively small guy for a pitcher (6’0″, 190), and now he’s looking like the oft-injured pitcher Duquette thought he might be. On the other hand, the Mets probably could have used those last five years of good production Kazmir gave the Rays.
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