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Kazmir gives Angels a boost vs. Yanks, Red Sox

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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On Friday, the Angels helped their chances of reaching the postseason — and winning a World Series — by acquiring left-hander Scott Kazmir from the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the subsequent 24 hours, two events elsewhere reaffirmed how important the Kazmir trade could be. In Boston, Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters that Tim Wakefield's back "kind of locked him up" again. The knuckleballer won't make his scheduled start on Tuesday. His status after that remains unclear. In New York, the Yankees bludgeoned the White Sox, 10-0. Chicago used three pitchers, all of them right-handed. The Yankees' lineup, as usual, included a number of left-handed and switch hitters. Four of them — Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano — had at least one RBI. Despite his 8-7 record and 5.92 ERA, Kazmir could contribute toward a tipping of the American League's competitive balance this October. The West division hasn't produced a World Series team since the Angels won the title in 2002. That may change this year, now that Mike Scioscia has another southpaw to counter all those lefty hitters in Boston and New York. "They've got to be very excited about it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Friday, when asked what the trade means for the Angels. "He's going to a great organization, great ownership, great manager." "It could be dramatic," one veteran scout said of the trade's potential impact. "I think he's going to be a solid rotation guy for them in the playoffs. He's going to be motivated. This could be big, if he's right and healthy." Maddon, a former Angels coach, also referenced the fact that Kazmir worked with Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher during the 2006 season. "That's really a plus for him," Maddon said. "I really believe the transition for him is going to be relatively easy." We know that some baseball statistics can deceive. But it's hard to argue with an array of them, pointing in the same direction. That's the case here. In his career against the Red Sox, Kazmir has an 8-7 record and 3.59 ERA. In his career against the Yankees, Kazmir has a 6-4 record and 2.53 ERA. Kazmir has made four combined starts against the Red Sox and Yankees this year. He is 4-0, including three quality starts.
And the Red Sox, who eliminated the Angels from the postseason three times since 2004, have a better record against right-handed starters (50-34) than left-handers (25-20). Before Joe Saunders returned from the disabled list last week, the Angels' rotation didn't have a left-handed starter. Instead, it included rookies Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell. But after Saunders' effective start against the Tigers (five innings, two earned runs) and the Kazmir trade, the Angels have two left-handers with the stuff and experience to win postseason games. As long as Kazmir stays healthy — hardly a given, since he's been on the disabled list in '08 and '09 — this trade could also help the Angels in their planning for 2010 and beyond. Lackey will become a free agent after this season. If he signs elsewhere, Angels general manager Tony Reagins could feel comfortable with his top four starters (Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Kazmir and Saunders) and hope that a younger pitcher (O'Sullivan, Bell, maybe Trevor Reckling) is ready to join the rotation fulltime in 2010. But this October is a more pressing consideration than all the Octobers after that. Reagins needed another starter, and he found one with postseason experience and a proven track record against the Big Guys. The Angels, by reputation, struggle with the Red Sox and have success against the Yankees. Kazmir's arrival increases the odds that they will beat them both this October.

And now for some interesting research

In order for new acquisitions to be eligible for a team's postseason roster, they must join the organization by Aug 31. So, Monday represents a more rigid "trade deadline" than July 31. Players with expiring contracts are the strongest candidates to change teams. And those who will become Type A or Type B free agents are more valuable — as long as a team has the budget to afford them — because they can bring back draft-pick compensation by signing elsewhere. That's why the research of Eddie Bajek is particularly intriguing right now. Bajek, an engineer and Tigers fan/blogger, is using his mathematical background to approximate the Elias Rankings for a second consecutive season. The Elias Rankings determine which players will be Type A and Type B free agents. "I don't expect (my rankings) to be perfect," said Bajek, whose work appears at MLBTradeRumors.com, "but I do expect them to be pretty doggone close." Bajek's rankings change daily, based on how players perform and whether they are on the active roster. The Aug. 31 deadline also applies to free-agent compensation. Here are a few ways those numbers could converge with the marketplace for players: ... According to Bajek, recently-released starter Brad Penny could become a Type B free agent if he has a strong September. That should make him even more appealing to National League teams. Penny is expected to clear release waivers on Monday. ... As reported by FOXSports.com, Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, infielder Craig Counsell, center fielder Mike Cameron and right-handed starter Braden Looper cleared waivers last week and are eligible to be dealt. Of that group, Bajek projects Kendall, Cameron and Looper as Type B free agents. ... Arizona right-hander Jon Garland has cleared waivers and threw seven shutout innings Saturday in his final outing before Monday's deadline. He's also barely below Type B status, according to Bajek. ... Infielder Ronnie Belliard, acquired by the Dodgers on Sunday, is just shy of Type B status. ... Bajek said Jerry Hairston Jr. wasn't ranked in the National League but became a Type B free agent upon his trade from the Reds to Yankees. "Unfortunately for them (the Yankees), unless he plays more at shortstop than the outfield the rest of the way, he'll qualify as an outfielder and won't be Type B," Bajek said.

Brewers still eyeing strong finish

The Brewers have fallen out of contention in the National League Central, and a number of their veterans cleared waivers. So, on the surface, they would appear to be certain sellers before the clock strikes midnight Tuesday morning. However, multiple major league sources have said owner Mark Attanasio is emphasizing the importance of a strong finish. The Brewers (64-66) could have an over-.500 record for a third consecutive year, something the franchise hasn't done since 1983. Finishing ahead of the rival Cubs has become a priority, in part because that would set a positive tone for 2010 ticket sales, the sources said. That said, general manager Doug Melvin could trade a veteran or two without severely damaging his team's chance at a winning record. Infielder Craig Counsell, a part-time player since Felipe Lopez's arrival, would be ideal for a number of contenders because of his experience and professionalism. Counsell could provide insurance and versatility for the Tigers, who are hoping that third baseman Brandon Inge makes it through the end of the season while playing on one good leg. (Counsell is a longtime favorite of Detroit manager Jim Leyland, for whom he scored the title-winning run as a Marlin in 1997.) The Giants, still without second baseman Freddy Sanchez, may also be a fit for Counsell.
Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Tim Wakefield, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Trevor Bell

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