Next up in our series previewing individual Dodgers is the man filling in as the #2 starter: Scott Kazmir
After signing a 3-year $48 million deal over the offseason, 32 year-old lefty Scott Kazmir finds himself in Los Angeles aiming to replace none other than Zack Greinke. He gets his first taste of pitching for an NL team after an up and down, but all around solid year that was split between Oakland and Houston.
Kazmir’s 2015 season was at times dominant, and at others maddening. He began the year making 18 starts for the Oakland A’s. In Oakland, he pitched as a legit second ace to teammate Sonny Gray. He limited opposing hitters to a .596 OPS on his way to a phenomenal 2.38 ERA.
His dominance would attract the attention of the Houston Astros, and he was traded on July 23rd. His last 13 starts of the season were not what the Astros had been expecting when they acquired him. With Houston, Kazmir posted a 4.17 ERA, but his 5.19 FIP suggested his ERA should’ve been worse. His last two starts of the season were particularly rough, when he gave up 10 earned runs in just 8 combined innings against Texas and Seattle. By the end of the season, Kazmir had seen his ERA climb to 3.10, still a more than respectable number, but not exactly like his first half in Oakland. All in all though, his ERA+ of 130 for the entire season said he pitched 30 percent better than the average starter.
2016 Role and Steamer Projections
Kazmir comes to Los Angeles sliding into the #2 spot in the rotation. With Zack Greinke’s free agent departure, Kazmir has his work cut out for him. His main priority is to stay on the field for a full season, which has been a problem for him in the past.
Kazmir’s Steamers projections predict that he’ll fall somewhere in the middle between his time with Oakland and Houston. He’s projected to go 10-9 in 28 starts, with 147 strikeouts, 45 walks, an ERA/FIP of 3.59/3.67 to go along with a 2.4 WAR. Not quite typical #2 starter production, but the Dodgers will take it.
What Could Go Wrong?
In the early part of Kazmir’s career, injuries were a major concern. In 2012, the combination of injuries and a loss in his velocity eventually forced him to go off the grid and he spent the 2012 season playing independent ball and in Puerto Rico. Since returning to the major leagues in 2013 he’s been an effective pitcher. Essentially, getting pre-2012 Kazmir is the worst-case scenario.
As with any player switching leagues, there may be an adjustment period to facing different hitters. This is Kazmir’s first extended foray into the NL so how he’ll pitch to NL hitters over a larger sample size is anyone’s guess.
What Could Go Right?
Basically, the same pitcher who shut down AL offenses with Oakland could show up to Dodger Stadium every fifth day. Pitching like he did with Oakland could quiet down the group of fans who want to tar and feather Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi for not resigning Zack Greinke.
Getting something like his first 18 starts from 2015 is the absolute best-case scenario, in which case he could exercise his opt out clause at the end of the season. According to the LA Times’ Steve Dilbeck, his comments in a conference call to reporters imply opting out isn’t a sure thing, saying, “I would be honored to finish my career as a Dodger.” Getting the results he got as an Athletic could make free agency hard to pass, and he could leave and make room for the Dodgers’ intriguing pitching prospects.