Get To Know ‘Em: Scott Kazmir

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(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Scott Kazmir is bringing his talents to the Bay Area

by Jim Turvey

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The A’s have made an unheralded amount of moves in the baseball offseason so far. In order to better evaluate these moves, we’ll take a (statistical heavy) look at each new member of the A’s over the next few weeks. We’ll start with arguably the A’s biggest acquisition so far, Scott Kazmir.

Stats Chart

W

L

ERA

WHIP

IP

SO

SO/BB

ERA+

fWAR

FIP

2013 season

10

9

4.04

1.323

158.0

162

3.45

93

2.5

3.51

Second half of 2103

5

5

3.38

1.264

72.0

82

4.82

XX

XX

2.42

2014 Steamer Projection

11

9

3.66

1.22

163.0

153

2.88

XX

2.6

3.53

Career

76

70

4.16

1.398

1180.0

1155

2.22

103

18.7

4.06

That’s obviously a lot of numbers. Let’s break them down section by section, starting with last season. In 2013, Kazmir enjoyed a career revival (more to come on this), contributing his first real positive season since 2008. His ERA wasn’t spectacular (4.04), but his FIP (fielder independent pitching, or basically a measure that correlates with ERA without taking into account the defense behind the pitcher) suggests he was a better pitcher than the numbers. Moving to O.co will only help his numbers, especially with a solid fielding team behind him.

The other number that sticks out in 2013 is his strikeout to walk ratio (3.45). At nearly three and a half strikeouts to each walk, Kazmir would have ranked 23rd in all of MLB in SO/BB ratio, had he not missed qualifying by a mere four innings. This is especially impressive given that one of the biggest knocks on his pitching as a young player was his lack of control. In fact, in his first full season, he led the league in walks, hitting triple digits with 100 for the season.

One of my favorite ways to analyze player’s future prospects is their second-half totals. Due to the cumulative nature of statistics, so much of a player’s face value is derived from how they began the season because players cannot hide from those statistics. For example, if a pitcher has a horrid three inning, nine run performance in his first start of the year, it would take three consecutive eight inning shutouts to bring his ERA down to 3.00.

The good news for A’s fans is that Kazmir passes this test quite well. Kazmir was acceptable in the first half of 2013, but he ended in his best form of the season. His 2.42 FIP in the second half of last year was fourth in all of baseball, and second in the American League, trailing only fellow Indian, Ubaldo Jimenez, who I already made the case for the A’s signing. His 10.25 strikeouts per nine innings in the second half were also fourth in all of baseball, and had he done this in the first half of the year, he would have likely been an All-Star, and his asking price would likely be far greater than two years $22 million. Good thing smart teams like the A’s like to go behind the surface statistics.

The next row features Kazmir’s 2014 projection. Kazmir’s projection is very similar to his 2013 season, which would be good news for the A’s. The going price for one win above replacement on the market this summer has been about six million dollars, meaning that Kazmir would be worth approximately $15.6 million per $/WAR in 2014 alone. Considering the A’s will be paying him a combined $22 million in both years of his deal, this would be a great start for Kazmir.

 

Background Story

We’re about to look at even more statistics so let’s break that up with a look at how Kazmir got to where he is today.

Scott Kazmir was a first round pick of the New York Mets in 2002, and established himself as a strong prospect early in his career. He was a big piece in the Mets’ trade for Victor Zambrano (remember him?!), and after arriving in Tamapa Bay, quickly made his way up to the big leagues. From 2005-2008, Kazmir made Mets’ fans rue the Zambrano deal, winning 45 games to go with a 3.51 ERA. He was the (Devil) Rays opening day starter by 2006, and at the ripe age of 22, was already the staff ace. By August of 2006, he was already the franchise leader in strikeouts, granted the franchise would have only been in 2nd grade if it was a child (8 years old), but the sky seemed to be the limit for Kazmir.

However, injuries struck, as they can do with pitchers, and Kazmir never found his form again with Tampa Bay. Kazmir found himself as far off the beaten path as the Domincan League as recently as 2012. He worked his way back, however, and made the Indians team out of spring training last year, as the team’s fifth starter. As we just discussed he had an excellent season, and was clearly even more in form in the second half of the season.

 

What Does He Throw?

Kazmir relies mostly on two different types of fastballs, throwing his trailing (or two-seam) fastball with greater regularity. Both his fastballs average just over 92 mph, but it is with his offspeed pitches (mostly a slider and changeup) that Kazmir is most successful. Opposing batters hit just .237 against his slider, and an even more paltry .195 against his changeup in 2013. His slider is his most efficient punch out pitch, and created swinging strikes 16.6 percent of the time last year. Kazmir is also a good fit for the A’s because he relies on fly ball outs more frequently than many pitchers, meaning that the friendly (to pitchers, at least) confines of O.co should help Scott out when pitching at home the next couple seasons.

 

Bye-bye Bartolo

One sad part of bringing in Kazmir is that it likely spells the end of Bartolo Colon (and his belly) in Oakland. Kazmir fills the role of rejuvenated veteran as the nominal ace of the young pitching staff. While Bartolo will be missed in Oakland, Kazmir and the youngsters should have enough success to help ease the pain of losing BFBC.

 

Stickin’ it to the Angels

If every baseball fan can agree on one thing it’s that when the Angels suffer it’s funny (ok maybe Angels’ fans don’t agree on that). Well, Kazmir offers a great chance for Angels’ fans to suffer. Kazmir was with the Angels from August of 2009 until the team released him in June of 2011. While he was with the club he threw only 188.0 innings, while tallying an ERA of 5.31, and a remarkably poor 119/91 strikeout to walk ratio. It would be awesome to see Kazmir throw a couple seven inning, seven strikeouts to one walk performances against the Angels this year.

 

What the others have to say

Billy Beane’s moves have been big news around baseball, as they are so out of character for Beane and the A’s. Over on fangraphs, Dave Cameron says of the move, “And based on both the A’s history and Kazmir’s 2013 season, this looks like a strong bet to be one of the best contracts given to a free agent starter this winter.” Grantland’s Michael Baumann is a little less bullish on the move, “Free agents are expensive these days. Kazmir shouldn’t cost $11 million unless the A’s have to bribe the local bureaucrats to make sure the paperwork goes through, but he does, because that’s simply how much starting pitching costs nowadays. Free-market economics can be stupid sometimes.” Finally, my personal favorite baseball writer, Jonah Keri of Grantland, didn’t speak on Kazmir signing with the A’s specifically, but he did name Kazmir as one of his biggest bargains of the offseason to be had, “Kazmir turns 30 in January, and how many 30-year-old lefties with mid-90s fastballs and his strikeout-to-walk rate are out there for the taking?”

Personally, I love the move for the A’s, and think that Kazmir will be around Oakland for a while. Billy Beane knows his way around the “scrap heap,” and he looks to have found another good bargain. Based on all the crazy moves in the AL West this offseason, we’ll have to hope so.

Come back Thursday for the next in our series of “Get to know ‘em’s” when we profile Luke Gregerson.

 

Author: Jim Turvey

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