Is Astros’ Scott Kazmir hitting the wall, again?
We’re not much for scapegoating in these here parts, and I’m not going to put the horns on anybody now.
I will mention that Scott Kazmir seems to have hit a wall at the worst time, and for the second year in a row.
Last season with the A’s, Kazmir entered his 26th start with nifty numbers: 14-5, 2.73 ERA. He finished the season at 15-9, 3.55; the A’s went 3-4 in his last seven starts, so it could have been worse.
This season with the Astros, Kazmir entered his 26th start with a 2.45 ERA. After Wednesday night’s disaster in Seattle, he’s got a 3.10 ERA; he’s given up 8 homers and 25 runs in his last 29 innings.
Then again, Kazmir probably didn’t cost the A’s anything last year. They finished 10 games behind the Angels, so if he’d pitched better down the stretch, the only thing that would have been different was the location of the Athletics’ only postseason game, as they finished one game behind the Royals in the wild-card standings. Would the A’s have won that game, had it been in Oakland rather than Kansas City? We’ll never know. But considering the improbable events therein, we might reasonably believe that things would have somehow gone differently.
This season, Kazmir’s poor finish hasn’t cost the Astros anything yet. They did come back to beat the M’s Wednesday, so they’re 2-4 in Kazmir’s last six starts. But they scored only eight runs in the four losses, so they’d probably have lost two or three of those games even if Kazmir had pitched effectively.
And of course the Astros haven’t actually missed the playoffs yet, and in fact are still a decent bet for the second wild card. Just like the A’s a year ago.
So why does all this matter? Especially if the Astros don’t come up just short in the standings? Because the way things stand now, Kazmir’s in line to start against the Yankees next Tuesday, in the Wild Card Game. And for what it’s worth, Kazmir has lost a tick or two off his fastball in his last few starts of the season, both this year and last year. While he did pitch well for the Indians at the end of the 2013 season, he finished with only 158 innings. Last season with the A’s, he threw 190 innings, easily his most since all the way back in 2007. This season he’s now thrown 183 innings. Maybe Kazmir, who’s worked so hard to come back from what looked like career-ending injuries, just isn’t a 180-inning pitcher anymore.
So has Kazmir really hit a wall, two years running? Well, at the least it sure seems like maybe he could use a little rest. He would be pitching next Tuesday against the Yankees on his usual rest. If that’s not enough, Mike Fiers should be available with a bit of extra rest … but then, do you want the righty Fiers pitching against the Yankees in that righty-killing Stadium? Or do you stick with convention and go with Kazmir, your lefty No. 2 starter?
These are the things that keep managers awake at night, of course. But I would consider something crazy, like asking both Kazmir and Fiers to give me their best three innings before we start thinking about the usual bullpenners.
If the Astros do wind up in the playoffs, they’ll already be playing with house money. Might as well double down with a calculated risk.
Update: As I should have mentioned above, ace Dallas Keuchel would be in line to start against the Yankees on short (three days) rest next Tuesday. The Astros have not announced that he would do that, but that’s where the signs are pointing now.