Round Two: You pick the next Houston Astros free-agent signing
While we are waiting for the next Houston Astros offseason transaction, let’s get the fans involved and help give Jeff Luhnow ideas. I am not naive enough to think that Luhnow will actually take this advice; buts let’s see who would be the popular pick. I will present the best case for both sides; then you will vote and choose the best free agent starter the Astros should sign. Then we will go to round three and pit the two winning free agents against each other.
We will play internet GM, for round two, let’s put Yovani Gallardo up against Scott Kazmir. When comparing the two players, consider that we are looking for a fourth or fifth starter. While one pitcher has had a better recent track record, the other had a bounce back season in 2015. One is a right-handed pitcher, the second is a left-handed starter that the Astros lack behind Dallas Keuchel.
Age and Experience
The 31-year-old Kazmir is entering his 10th season of service time as a big, after being out of the picture in 2012 pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters trying to re-discover himself after struggling in 2010-11, people thought he was a first round pick bust. However, the Cleveland Indians game him a chance in 2013, and he started his metamorphosis with a 10-9 record with a 4.04 ERA for the Tribe. Kazmir was the 15th overall draft pick in the 2002 MLB Draft.
The 29-year-old Gallardo took a different path than Kazmir, as he was drafted in the second-round of the 2004 draft. When he broke into the big leagues, he had instant success with the Brewers going 9-5/ 3.67 ERA/ 101 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings. He was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, as I kept Gallardo over Yu Darvish before the 2013 season. Darvish went on to have TJ surgery in 2015 but quickly became a bad choice by me as Gallardo had his worst season in 2013. The Brewers were not going anywhere, he had a bad 2014 but bounced back with the Rangers in 2015.
Looking at control, Kazmir tops Gallardo by a relatively large margin of pitches in the strike zone. Gallardo has relied on the fastball over the years as will be evident in his strikeouts/stuff section, but he has trouble locating pitches. While both Kazmir and Gallardo have about the same percentage of first pitch strikes thrown in their career.
The bottom line is that Gallardo walks more batters due to trying to work the corners, but surprisingly Kazmir has had more hitters swing at strikes in the strike zone.
Ironically, Gallardo and Kazmir have thrown the fastball at the same speed through the years, but Gallardo throws all the other pitches harder. The extra oomph on the pitches could explain how Gallardo struggles to throw strikes on a consistent basis. Kazmir used to throw in the 93 mph range early in his career but doesn’t blow the ball by hitters anymore. Stats from Fangraphs.
Kazmir slightly holds the edge in strikeouts per nine innings. According to Richard Justice of MLB.com, the top free agent starter currently on the board is Gallardo. When he signs with a team, the rest of the free agents will sign in a domino effect. The former Brewers ace is perceived as the best pitcher, but would the Astros be better signing Kazmir?
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Early in Gallardo’s career, he was not a high groundball type of pitcher at around 40%. As his career has progressed, he has pitched toward more groundball contact with 50.8% and 49.3% the past two seasons respectively. For his career, he averages a 46.7% groundball rate. Kazmir, on the other hand, has maintained about a 40% groundball rate for most of his career. As we witnessed in Houston last season, Kazmir gives up almost the same amount of fly balls as he does groundballs.
Despite giving up more flyballs than Gallardo, Kazmir does not give up as many home runs. Gallardo has a range between 12 and 27 homers allowed in his career while Kazmir has allowed between 12 and 25.
Looking at what most fans care about, what have they done recently, Kazmir had better statistics in 2015. The thing that separates them is that Kazmir fell apart in the second half. He had two great starts with the Astros after the trade but struggled for the rest of his starts. Kazmir had a 2.49 ERA in 101 1/3 innings with the A’s and a 3.86 ERA with the Astros in 81 2/3 innings. Stats from Fangraphs.
The biggest thing that will cause the Astros to pass on Gallardo is the draft pick that it would require for the Astros to sign him. The pick would then go to the Rangers in the form of compensation pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. According to Bob Nightengale, the Astros are among the finalist for Kazmir. It has been reported that Gallardo is asking for four-years $60 million and it would be fair to say that Kazmir might get a similar deal.
You make your choice, Astros fans, which of the two pitchers could you choose if you were Jeff Luhnow?
**All Stats from Baseball-Reference and/or Fangraphs**