Monday, April 13, 2009

Game 7: Kashmir

As the Yankees send their groundball machine Chien Ming Wang to the mound tonight to avenge his horrible showing in Baltimore, the Tampa Bay (Nothing Ungodly-Sounding) Rays counter with lefty strikeout tallier Scott Kazmir.

Scott's dad co-owned a company with Adam Dunn's father in Houston and despite being 5 years apart, used to play wiffle ball together growing up. Kazmir was quarterback of his football team in high school, but found that his talents on the pitcher's mound far exceed those under center. Kazmir threw two no-hitters as a sophomore and then four consecutive no-hitters his junior year. As a senior, he broke Josh Beckett's strikeout record for the state of Texas by punching out 175 in 72 innings and was named Baseball America's High School Player Of The Year.

The Mets were surprised when he fell to them at the 15th pick in the draft and signed him for $2.15M, the largest bonus the team had ever given out (guess who his agent was). Kazmir continued his dominance on his rise through the minor leagues, but was traded when he was still in Double A. He was moved to the (at the time Devil) Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato at the behest of pitching coach Rick Peterson who thought he saw a fixable flaw in Zambrano's mechanics. Although Steve Phillips is commonly assumed to have made the trade in hindsight (since it was retarded), it actually occured Jim Duquette's watch.

After missing the first month of the 2008 season, Kazmir signed an extension last May with TB that locked him up through 2011 with team option for '12. He made 27 starts last year and had a 3.49 ERA, but averaged only 5 2/3 innings per start (5.8 for his career). As is the case with many strikeout pitchers, Kazmir has trouble keeping his pitch count down. In his first start this season he went six innings and gave up one run, but needed 111 pitches to do so.

I know Mets fans pine for Kazmir like an old girlfriend who got away, but he's not a guy that I particularly wish was on the Yanks. Don't get me wrong, if Scott Kazmir is your second or third best pitcher, you've probably got a great staff. But he doesn't seem like a true top of the line starter to me because he puts too much pressure on the bullpen. And I hate guys who throw too many pitches.

Don't go proving me wrong now, Scott.

[I know, the spelling isn't the same, but it's close enough]

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