Houston Astros: The puzzling case of Scott Kazmir’s season.
By Eric Huysman
On the morning of one of Scott Kazmir‘s biggest starts of the season, I wanted to take a look at the puzzling stats on Kazmir’s 2015 season. Do the Astros need him past the 2015 season or will the Astros open their checkbook to retain his services? Kazmir is a local boy from Houston who has pitched his way back into baseball after early career struggles. He offers the Astros a second left-handed starter to Dallas Keuchel, which is something that appears lacking in the Astros system, quality left-handed pitchers. The Astros traded top left prospect Josh Hader at the trade deadline, so could this factor into their decision to re-sign Kazmir?
The Houston Astros did exactly what they had to do in the position that they were in at the trade deadline; they acquired a frontline starter in Scott Kazmir for the stretch drive. At the time, the Astros were trying to find ways to limit innings on the arms of Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez without affecting the competitiveness of the team. They traded a potential catcher of in future in Jacob Nottingham and a depth pitcher in Daniel Mengden for the rights for Kazmir for the 2015 season. I am not here to bash Jeff Luhnow for the trade or Kazmir’s performance as a whole, but instead to look at his performance and future with the team.
The truth is that Kazmir is not guaranteed to be with the team past this season, and some would argue that he has not earned an extension with the Astros. What has exactly happened with Kazmir, let’s take a look at Kazmir’s stats with the Athletics, Astros, and the whole season.
One thing that does not show up on the table above is how many innings that Kazmir is averaging. With the A’s, Kazmir was averaging 6 1/3 innings a start with a range of 3 to 8 1/3 innings. Kazmir was knocked out early with injury or ineffectiveness, before completing five innings, four times. With the Astros, Kazmir is averaging 5 2/3 innings a start with a range of 3 2/3 to 8 1/3 innings. Kazmir was absolutely dominating in his first two starts but has been below average in his other starts. He has 11 losses with a 2.97 ERA, that’s old-school.
Has the pressure of pitching in his home city affected Kazmir, maybe he has put a little too pressure to earn a contract or help the Astros reach the playoffs? Do the Astros need Kazmir beyond 2015? Let’s take a look at the pitchers who will compete to make the rotation next year.
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Even without Kazmir, the Astros are still pretty deep at starting pitcher next year. I wrote earlier in the season that Jeff Luhnow wants a premium free-agent pitcher, you can read it here: Is an offseason ace addition in Luhnow’s hand? and Luhnow: Astros Guideline for Signing Premium Free-Agent. One of the requirements was that the player be relatively young and projectable. Maybe a player who is 28-years-old might fit that mold. Kazmir is 31-years-old and has been very inconsistent with the Astros this season. Jordan Zimmerman might be a player that best meets what Luhnow is looking for with a free agent signing.
Tonight’s game could mean something the future of the Astros and Kazmir. Should he struggle this evening, it could further reduce his value on the open market. Luhnow said prior to the Kazmir trade that they were not just looking for a long term person to sign but were looking for help. Luhnow is already a bit of a penny pincher as is, so if he doesn’t see the value in Kazmir, he will look elsewhere.
Good luck to Kazmir tonight. Treat this like a job interview and put off your best impression Scott. We will come back in the offseason and address this topic again. After last night’s loss, I hope