Is Scott Kazmir really done as an ace?

Today, the trade sending Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor league players (LHP Alex Torres, 3B Matt Sweeney) and a player to be named later is official.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox

Reaction seems to be very pro-Tampa Bay (Keith Law. Rob Neyer. Matthew Pouliot.) with the general consensus being that Kazmir is no longer an ace and will not return to being an ace.

At 25 years old, is Kazmir really finished?

From 2005-8, when Kazmir anchored the Rays rotation, he racked up a 45-34 record with a 3.51 ERA in 689.2 innings with a K/BB ratio of 2.39, striking out 742.

Out of his 144 career starts, 36 — or 25 percent of all his starts — have come against the vaunted Red Sox and Yankees. What has he done in those starts? Try 208.1 innings, 3.20 ERA, 220 whiffs. This was all at the ages of 20-24. That’s certifiably insane.

Kazmir spent some time on the disabled list early on in 2008 with a strained left elbow then assumed a big workload en route to the Rays’ first postseason — and World Series — appearance. Kazmir got 2009 off to a fine start before tumbling fast and being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad strain May 22. He was activated from the disabled list June 27 and only recently started firing the ball better. You can see here that he’s struggled with his K/9 all year, the struggles coming with his injury woes.

As a result, his average velocity has dipped to 90.7 mph off his fastball, after being at 93.7 in 2004. Over his career, he’s averaging 91.9 mph. One promising aspect of Kazmir’s pitching this year is the return of his slider, which he largely shelved last year and can be traced to his strained left elbow in 2008 causing him trouble.

So, let me get this straight. Yes, Kazmir has a 5.92 ERA on the season, but his FIP is 4.79. He’s struggled with injury this year, being lit up in five of his seven games prior to going on the disabled list. He struggled with inconsistency on his return, but has turned in three straight solid starts, the last one against Toronto coming with one walk against 10 strikeouts.

All this tells me that Kazmir is far from done being an ace. Yes, he might end up being an injury-prone starter for the next coming years. Yes, maybe Law, Neyer and Pouliot are all onto something. But ‘Kaz’ is being written off completely in this trade, which makes zero sense to me. He still has the talent to be an ace, and I’m guessing you’ll see him at the top of the Angels’ rotation next year, leading them to the playoffs.

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Austin Weaver
12 years ago

“… and I’m guessing you’ll see him at the top of the Angels’ rotation next year, leading them to the playoffs.”

You don’t think the rangers, with all of their young talent (presently on the team and still coming), will finally pass the angels next year? Our pitching staff has had a great improvement this year and while some of it can be contributed to defense certainly some of it is also for real.  Holland, Feliz, and Hunter have the talent to anchor the rotation for years. Plus we will still have Millwood and Feldman. Out hitting this year hasn’t been as good as expected, so I feel like it is a fair assumption to say it can only go up from here with Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Chris Davis all having off years.  You can probably expect improvement from Elvis Andrus and Taylor Teagarden as well.  Byrd’s value this year(assuming he is gone next year) will easily be replaced if not improved by borbon, who is hitting way over his head but is a much better defender than byrd. I think it is fair to say cruz and murphy can repeat their production next year.  The only person who has a good chance to decline is michael young, and that is because he is having a monster season. All in All, i just don’t say the angels contending for the next 3 or 4 years with all the young talent the rangers have as well as the angels getting older and possibly losing key players (Vlad, John Lackey).

Evan Brunell
12 years ago

1) I really like Texas, but they have a bit of an interesting offseason ahead of them. I’m also a bit concerned about a “sophomore swoon”for their pitching. I’m not saying they can’t make the playoffs, but I’m not going to anoint them better than the Angels.

2) You forget the wild card.

Don Mynack
12 years ago

Man, too bad the Astros didn’t trade the pu-pu platter for Kazmir – local kid who’s only 25 and would have no pressure on him to get healthy. Oh wait – Ed Wade is our GM. Oh well.

12 years ago

This trade wasn’t about talent; it was about how Kazmir will not be under team control for much longer.

12 years ago

The Rays had to contend with Kazmir’s salary combined with the expectations of his performance. He’s somewhat injury prone, did not perform nearly as well the last season and a half as he did in his first few years, and was due for I believe $8M this upcoming season. In addition, the Rays have a ton of pitching prospects in the minors that they can slot for Kaz’s spot.

It isn’t so much that he’s done (perhaps as an ace, but he’s more than likely to be above major league average) as much as he’s done considering his price and the Rays’ budget.

12 years ago

I can’t vouch for the other two but Neyer is a notorious Angel-hater. I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure the Angels team bus must have run over his dog when he was a kid or something. If the Angels traded Gary Matthews for Albert Pujols tomorrow’s Neyer column would be about what a great deal the Cards got and how the Angels just can’t do anything right.

Bottom line is Torres is an okay prospect… by no means a lock to ever contribute at the major league level. If there’s even a marginal chance for Kazmir to contribute then this deal will come out roses for the Angels. Butcher is a better pitching coach than he’s given credit for and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do with this obviously talented but recently troubled kid.

12 years ago

There’s little in the way of analysis here and primarily just conjecture. Essentially “you know he was really good in the past, but hey he was better than we even realized because he dominated the Yankees and Sox.” Then “his fastball velocity is down but he hasn’t actually performed as bad as it looks on the surface.” Then you conclude you think he’ll be great again.

How about some history? Some insight on how bad the injuries have been and whether pitchers typically return to effectiveness after them. There’s a tiny bit of interesting information here but not very much and it doesn’t really give the reader a grasp on what Kazmir’s pitching has been like of late or whether we can expect him to return as a top tier starter.

12 years ago

With the news that the third player in the deal is Sean Rodriguez, this trade no longer looks like as much of a steal for the Angels.  Still, given that Rodriguez is hopelessly blocked by no fewer than 6 players (Figgins, Wood, Aybar, Izturis, Kendrick and Hunter), combined with the upside of a healthy Scott Kazmir, the deal could go either way.

I don’t get Neyer’s problem with the Angels.  I realize they don’t have a team full of Jack Custs, but all they have done since Scioscia took over is win baseball games.  Further, while they do push baserunning (a good thing) and situational bunting (not such a good thing) in their system, they also preach patience.  The problem is that a lot of their players just haven’t had that mindset until seeing another guy, Bobby Abreu, come in and be successful with it.