Scott Kazmir hasn’t even pitched 50 innings in an Angel uniform yet, but already expectations and questions abound as he heads into Spring Training attempting to simultaneously prove himself to be the team’s ace as well as erase the memory of a disappointing post-season. What lies in store for Scott Kazmir in 2010? Our Player Preview has the answers.
2009 Stats: 147.1 IP, 10-9, 149 H, 60 BB, 117 K, 4.89 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
2010 Bill James Projections: 173.0 IP, 10-9, 160 H, 76 BB, 176 K, 3.90 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
2010 Chone Projections: 166.0 IP, 10-9, 161 H, 65 BB, 149 K, 4.23 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
2010 Marcel Projections: 149.0 IP, 10-8, 139 H, 62 BB, 142 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
2010 Monkey Projections*: 185.0 IP, 14-9, 165 H, 70 BB, 200 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com except the Monkey Projections which are strictly based on my own knowledge, logic and intuition.
2009 Review: Scott Kazmir would probably rather forget his 2009 season as it was an injury and rumor riddled career-worst season for him. By the time the Angels acquired him (via a contentious trade with the Rays), he had put much of that behind him and strung together some dazzling starts during his brief regular season in Anaheim, teasing Angel fans into thinking that he was the missing piece to the championship puzzle and not just an insurance policy should John Lackey leave via free agency after the season (or both). But whatever worked for Kazmir in the regular season stopped working during the post-season. Kaz got knocked around in a crucial loss during Game 4 of the ALCS and then really poured some gasoline on the fire when he flubbed a sacrifice bunt fielding attempt in the deciding innings of Game 6, ultimately cementing a Yankee series win.
3 Questions for 2010:
- What impact will being under Mike Butcher’s tutelage again have on Kaz? Kazmir really started to develop under Mike Butcher back in 2006 and the results were evident in 2007 when Kazmir looked like a real ace for the first time, this was the year after Butcher left to join the Angels. Many have speculated that Kazmir would thrive once more upon reuniting with Butcher. But is Butcher maybe receiving too much credit here? He did only coach Kazmir for one year when he really was just a kid and had nowhere to go but up.
- Does Kazmir really have the durability to lead a pitching staff? Some talk as if Kazmir fell off the ace wagon last season via some loss of talent, but it seems to be far more attributable to health problems. But health is still certainly an issue. Kazmir should be over the forearm and quadricep issues that limited him last season, but who is to say that he won’t get hurt again (history, that’s who). After all, he has made 27 or fewer starts in three of his five full seasons in the majors. Even if he can stay healthy, as an ace, he still needs to eat up innings which will be pretty hard if he notches his fourth straight year of finishing in the top 7 in pitches per inning in the major leagues.
- What lingering effects will his 2009 post-season failures have on his confidence? Or maybe it is the fan confidence we should be worried about. Nonetheless, Kazmir entered the post-season with the reputation of a Red Sox and Yankee killer only to end up getting killed by them instead, especially during his epic meltdown in relief during Game 6 of the ALCS (guess who’s going to be taking extra pitcher fielding drills this spring?). Failing on a big stage can be hard for some players to cope with (see Rick Ankiel as a pitcher) and while Scott’s failures weren’t exactly monumental, it does put into question how much mental fortitude he has to summon up during clutch situations and games.
2010 Preview: It is hard to judge a guy based on just nine appearances (counting the post-season) with a team, but I think I have Kazmir pegged already. He has great stuff and should really be one of the unquestioned top pitchers in baseball, but he just can’t quite seem to get over the hump for a multitude of reasons and probably never will. Nonetheless, he is still an excellent pitcher, just a flawed one. I am going out on a limb a little bit by predicting a relatively healthy season for him (I think he makes at least 32 starts), but otherwise it actually is a pretty safe bet that he will be effective. Those poor 2009 numbers just scream fluke, so really all I expect him to do is regress back to his mean performance. There probably will be a few rough spots for Kaz along the way as I very much anticipate Butcher working hard with him to not only be effective but efficient as well.