Player: Scott Kazmir
Born: January 24th, 1984 (Currently 30 years old)
Drafted: On June 4th, 2002 by the New York Mets in the 1st round (15th pick) of the 2002 Amateur Draft
Start of Tenure: On July 30th, 2004 was acquired by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays along with Jose Diaz from the New York Mets in exchange for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato
End of Tenure: On August 29th, 2009 was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Alex Torres, Matthew Sweeney, and a PTBNL (Sean Rodriguez)
Teams: New York Mets, Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays, Cleveland Indians, and the Oakland Athletics
Currently: A starting pitcher for the Oakland Athletics
Rays Stat Line: 16.5 WAR, 55-44 (W-L), 3.92 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, 834 IP, 874 SO, 9.4 SO/9 in 145 games
Becoming the Mets #1 Prospect
Scott Kazmir was drafted on June 4th, 2002 by the New York Mets with the 15th pick of the draft out of Cypress Falls High School in Houston, Texas. His high school teammate, Clint Everts, was taken ten picks earlier by the Montreal Expos, making Everts and Kazmir the first pair of high school pitchers drafted from the same school in the 1st round in baseball history.
Kazmir was verbally committed to the University of Texas and considered a tough sign; he was originally slotted to go with one of the top three picks in the draft, but his commitment dropped his draft status. The Mets nonetheless drafted Kazmir with their top pick. It would take until August 2nd for New York to sign him. He received a signing bonus of $2.15 million, which the highest the Mets had ever given a draftee.
The week after Kazmir signed he was assigned to the Mets' Single-A- team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Kazmir pitched in 5 games for Brooklyn and had a great professional start. In 18 IP, Kazmir struck out 34, walked seven, and only allowed one earned run. When the 2003 season came around, Kazmir was named the best left-handed pitching prospect in all of the MLB, the Mets' number-two prospect, behind only Jose Reyes, and he was also named the eleventh-best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America.
Kazmir would begin the 2003 season with the Mets' Single-A team, the Capital City Bombers. Kazmir would pitch half the season there, and performed well enough to earn a call-up to the High-A St. Lucie Mets after the All-Star Break. He again pitched great for St. Lucie and capped that season as the winning pitcher in the Florida State League title game. He would finish the season with a 2.63 ERA in 25 games and 109.1 IP between the two levels.
In 2004, Kazmir was named the number 2 prospect in the Mets organization, behind Kazuo Matsui and twelfth best overall by Baseball America. He was also ranked the third best pitching prospect behind two Dodgers prospects, Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller. Kazmir received an invite to Spring Training, but the 20-year-old southpaw was among the first to be reassigned on March 10th. He began the season back at St. Lucie, and appeared in 11 games before being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he pitched pitch solidly in four games.
Deal of the Decade
Victor Zambrano had a breakout year in 2003 for Tampa Bay, and was having a solid 2004 season. The Mets, meanwhile, struggled to a 49-53 record, and were 7 games out of the playoff chase. They had relied on some old horses the majority of the season, like Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, and Steve Trachsel, and were looking to rejuvenate their starting rotation.
First, the Mets acquired Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Matt Peterson, Ty Wigginton, and Jose Bautista. Not satisfied in their win now approach, the Mets then acquired Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato from the Devil Rays at a high cost: Scott Kazmir and Jose Diaz.
The Devil Rays assigned Kazmir to their Double-A team, the Montgomery Biscuits, but he would only appear in four games before the Devil Rays called him up on August 23rd to start that night's game at Safeco Field.
Kazmir became the youngest pitcher to play in a MLB game that season, and the second youngest in team history behind Travis Phelps. The first batter that Kazmir faced was reigning AL batting tittle holder Ichiro Suzuki, who would ground out. Kaz then recorded his first career strikeout, against former Devil Rays All-Star Randy Winn, on three pitches.
Kazmir would end the game having gone five innings, with four strikeouts and three walks, while not allowing any runs. Tampa Bay won 9-0, and Kazmir stuck in the starting rotation the rest of the year.
On September 27th, Kazmir was ejected in the fourth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox.
Over the first three innings, he had totaled six strikeouts and only walked one batter. Then, in the bottom of the third, Bronson Arroyo, had hit Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez (Huff would eventually leave the game, due to his injury). Kaz opened the 4th inning by getting Mark Bellhorn to pop out to short, and then he hit Manny Ramirez on the first pitch of the at bat. That prompted warnings to both benches. Kazmir proceeded to hit the next batter, Kevin Millar, resulting in his and Lou Pinella's ejections.
The following April, this incident apparently of sparked the 2005 brawl between the two teams.
Kazmir made one more start that season and finished with a 5.67 ERA, and 4.22 FIP in 33.1 IP
In 2005, Kazmir was named the number two prospect in the Devil Rays' system and seventh in all of baseball by Baseball America.
After spring training, he was inserted into the starting rotation behind Dewon Brazelton. Kazmir had to wait all the way until May 19th, his ninth start, to pick up his first win of the season, despite pitching relatively well. After the All-Star break, however, Kazmir dominated opposing hitters, going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA during that time. He was one of only three American League pitchers to finish with more strikeouts than hits allowed, joining Randy Johnson and Johan Santana as the players to do so.
On September 4th, Kazmir would put in his best start of the year, shutting down the Toronto Blue Jays for seven innings, striking out nine, allowing four hits, and only walking one.
In his next start, he set a career high by striking out 11 more Blue Jays. It was the third time that season that he had struck out more than ten batters in a game. Kazmir was the first pitcher in Rays history to have that many strikeouts in multiple starts. In his last start of the season, he surpassed Tony Saunders's team record of 172 strikeouts in a season, set during the inaugural season. He struck out seven Cleveland Indians to set the new record.
Kazmir would finish the season having accumulated 174 strikeouts, with a 3.77 ERA and a 3.76 FIP, in 32 games and 186 IP. He also led the league in walks allowed with 100. Kazmir finished ninth in Rookie of the Year voting, while fellow Devil Rays rookie, Jonny Gomes, finished third.
The 2006 season marked the beginning of a new era for the Devil Rays. A new ownership group was in, former manager Lou Pinella was traded, and Joe Maddon had been hired to replace him.
On March 23rd, Maddon named Kazmir the team's opening day starter. Kazmir would make that start at the age of 22, making him the youngest opening day starter in baseball since Dwight Gooden in 1986.
Unfortunately, Kazmir only lasted four innings against the Baltimore Orioles and gave up six runs. However, he followed that up by coming within one out of a complete game against the Blue Jays, a career high. Kazmir had a terrific month of May, being named the AL pitcher of the month with a record of 4-1 and a 1.91 ERA in 33.1 IP. Some of his highlights during the month are below:
May 10th, against the Seattle Mariners, 7 IP / 3 H / 1 BB / 9 K / 0 ER
May 21st, against the Florida Marlins, 8 IP / 4 H / 1 BB/ 11 K / 0 ER
On July 3rd, Kazmir threw his 1st complete game, it was a two-hit shutout of the Red Sox to give Kazmir his tenth win of the season. He was the youngest pitcher to reach that many wins so quickly since John Smoltz did it in 1989 for the Atlanta Braves. Kazmir struck out 10 and only walked two. Unfortunately, that was the last win Kazmir would record in 2006.
Due to Kazmir's excellent season up to that point, he was selected to his first All-Star game. He came in for the bottom of the 6th inning and retired Freddy Sanchez, Carlos Beltran, and Albert Pujols in order on 9 pitches.
In his 1st start back, Kazmir pitched six innings against the Minnesota Twins, allowing four runs. He had a great start his next time out on July 23rd, when he struck out 10 Orioles in 7 innings. Unfortunately, Kazmir would be scratched from his next start, and on July 30th was placed on the disabled list due to inflammation of his rotator cuff. The team called up the recently acquired J.P. Howell, to fill his starting role.
On August 8th, Kazmir was reactivated and Howell sent back down to triple-A, but Kazmir would only make 3 more starts, and was shut down after his August 22nd start for precautionary reasons. He finished the season with a 3.24 ERA, and 3.36 FIP in 144.2 IP and 24 games.
Kazmir was back healthy and ready to go for 2007 and was again named the Devil Rays opening day starter. He'd complete five innings and take a no decision against the Yankees. In the early half of the season, Kazmir struggled, but that may have been due to the historically bad defense behind him.
The season would turn around for him after the all-star break, on August 25th against the Oakland Athletics he would set a new career high with 13 strikeouts. Kazmir eventually finished the season with an AL best 239 strikeouts. The only player with more was the Padres' Jake Peavy, who recorded his 240th strikeout during the team's 163rd game of the season, a one game playoff. Kazmir was only 23, and that made him the youngest player to lead the AL in strikeouts since Frank Tanana did it for the Angels in 1975.
On September 10th, Kazmir gave his best start of the season going seven shutout innings against the Red Sox while striking out ten. After the all-star break, Kazmir went 8-3, with a 2.39 ERA. He finished the season with a 3.48 ERA and a 3.45 FIP in 206.2 IP and also tied a team record with 34 starts. James Shields also proved himself in the 2007 season and he and Shields became a fearsome 1-2 punch. Kazmir and Shields became the 3rd and 4th Rays pitchers to hit the 200-inning plateau. Only Rolando Arrojo (1998) and Tanyon Sturtze (2002) had done it previously.
March Towards History
Scott Kazmir made his first start of spring training in 2008 on February 25th. Unfortunately, during his warm-up tosses in the bullpen, he felt discomfort in his left shoulder. He decided to not pitch in the game for precautionary reasons.
He would scratched from a future start on March 16th and was eventually placed on the disabled list on March 25th along with Ben Zobrist, who had suffered a fractured thumb back on March 9th. Kazmir would make three rehab starts (two with Vero Beach and one with Durham), the first time in Kaz's career that he had been in triple-A.
On May 4th, Kazmir made his return to a Major League mound in less than dominant fashion. He lasted four innings against the Red Sox and allowed three runs. However, he would dominate the rest of the month, winning all five of his starts, with an ERA of 0.55 and 33 strikeouts in 33 innings.
On May 10th, Kazmir became the Rays' all-time win leader by recording his 36th career win against the Angels. He finished the month with a record of 5-1, with a 1.22 ERA in 6 starts. Kazmir would also break his former team record of consecutive winning starts with six. For his performance, Kaz was named American League pitcher of the month --the 1st time in team history that a Rays player was awarded a monthly honor.
In July, Kazmir was named to his 2nd All-Star game, along with two other Rays: Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria (the most representatives in the team's history). Those Rays were essential to the American League's victory, as Evan Longoria had a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning that tied the game. The game would eventually enter extra innings, and Navarro came close to ending it in the 11th, but was thrown out by Nate McClouth while trying to score on Michael Young's single.
By the time Kazmir took the mound in the 15th, he was the last pitcher available to the American League. Kazmir struck out Dan Uggla, got Alex Gonzalez to fly out to left, walked David Wright, and then produced a Christian Guzman groundout. In the bottom half, the game ended when Justin Morneau and Navarro singled, J.D. Drew Walked, and Michael Young walked off with a sacrifice fly. Kazmir was awarded the victory. You can watch the full game here.
Kazmir struggled after the All-Star break, only completing seven innings in one start. On September 20th, however, he had the honor of being the winning pitcher in the game that clinched the first ever playoff spot for the Rays. His line on the day: six innings pitched, five hits, no earned runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.
Kazmir made his first postseason appearance on October 3rd, in the second game of the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox. He struggled in the first inning, hitting the leadoff batter Orlando Cabrera. He walked Nick Swisher and allowed a single to Jermaine Dye. Two runs would eventually score, but that was all Kazmir would allow though five and a third innings, while the Rays scored six runs to secure a victory. The Rays would eventually win the series, 3 games to 1.
The Rays moved on to the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, and they would lose game one. Kazmir made the start in game 2 and struggled, only going four and a third innings while allowing five runs, including three solo home runs. The Rays would go on to win in exciting fashion, though, on a B.J. Upton walkoff sacrifice fly.
Re-live that story in detail here.
Entering game five, the Rays had won three straight against Boston, meaning that a victory would put them in the World Series. Kazmir was tabbed with the start at Fenway, and was given a lead immediately thanks to a two-run home run by B.J. Upton in the first. He would hold the lead and the Red Sox scoreless for six innings, and was in line for the series-clinching victory. Unfortunately, the usually strong Rays bullpen blew a big 7-0 lead, and eventually lost in the 9th, 8-7.
Thankfully, the Rays won in a dramatic game seven to advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Maddon chose Kazmir as the starting pitcher for the Rays in game one in Tropicana Fieldm giving Kaz the honor of delivering the first World Series pitch in team history. He started poorly. In the first, after getting Jimmy Rollins to flyout to begin the game, Kazmir walked Jayson Werth and gave up a two-run homer to Chase Utley to hand the Phillies an early lead.
Kazmir would settle down and only give up one more run on a groundout in the fourth inning. His final line on the day would be six innings pitched, six hits, three earned runs, four strikeouts, and four walks. An acceptable line, but Cole Hamels did slightly better and handed Kazmir and the Rays a game one loss.
Kazmir would start game five in Philadelphia, with the Rays down in the series three games to one. The conditions were very sloppy and it rained throughout the night. Kazmir was only able to complete four innings, and he allowed two runs.
The game was eventually suspended in the sixth inning, and resumed two days later. The Rays battled, but the Phillies won the game and the series.
Kazmir's finished the 2008 regular season with a 3.49 ERA, a 4.37 FIP, 166 K in 152.1 IP
Downward Spiral, Hello L.A.
Kazmir was able to stay healthy throughout Spring Training in 2009 and made his first start of the season on April 8th going six innings against the Red Sox in a winning effort. But as the season wore on, Kazmir struggled, and the Rays on May 22nd, the Rays placed him on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain.
He would return on June 27th, and had some quality starts but failed to stay consistent. Heading into the 2009 trading deadline, the Rays were 5 games back in the playoff chase. After a quiet deadline, the Rays playoff chances continued to dwindle. With the season winding down, the Rays looked to get value out of their declining ace, and he helped their case with a strong start in Toronto on August 26th. On the day, he pitched six innings of one run ball, in which he gave up only one on four hits and a walk, while striking out ten Blue Jays.
It was a memorable performance in what would turn out to be his last game in a Rays uniform. On August 29th, the team dealt him to the Angels in exchange for Alex Torres, Matthew Sweeney, and Sean Rodriguez.
Kazmir performed well for the Angels the rest of the year. In six starts and 36.1 IP, he had a 1.73 ERA. Kazmir would pitch in the postseason as well for LA, appearing in game three of the ALDS against the Red Sox. He went completed six innings in the game and allowed five runs. but the Angels went on to win the game and the series.
Kazmir also started game four of the ALCS against the New York Yankees and struggled with his control, allowing New York to push across three runs in the fourth inning. He also gave up a leadoff single in the fifth, and was then relieved by Jason Bulger, who immediately gave up a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees went on to win, 10-1.
Kaz made one more appearance that postseason, in the bottom of the eigh thinning of game six. The Angels trailed 3-2 when Kazmir came on in relief of Ervin Santana. After back-to-back errors, two walks, a groundout, flyout, and a strikeout, the Yankees pushed the lead to 5-2. They'd win that game and the series.
Kazmir finished the regular season with a 4.89 ERA and a 4.26 FIP in 147.1 IP between the Rays and Angels.
Kazmir got off to a rough start in 2010, he began the season on the disabled list and made his first start on April 15th against the Yankees only lasting four innings and giving up six runs. Once again, he failed to be consistent, intermingling quality starts with shaky ones.
On July 18th, he was sent to the disabled list once more, this time with left shoulder fatigue. He made his return on August 7th, and was able to stay healthy the rest of the year. He'd finish the season with a 5.94 ERA and a 5.83 FIP in 150 IP. His 15 losses were also tied for third worst in the majors.
In 2011, Kazmir made one start for the Angels, on April 3rd against the Kansas City Royals. He only lasted 1.1 innings, while allowing 5 runs to score. The next day he was placed on the disabled list with a back strain. He began his rehab assignment more than a month later, and would post disastrous results and after his return to the bigs.
The Angels decided to eat the $10 million that was left on Kazmir's contract and released him on June 15th, 2011.
Kazmir's struggles on top his durability made it tough for him to get another job. After going a full year without finding any offers, Kazmir signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters on June 19th, 2012. He joined a pitching staff that included Roger Clemens and Jason Lane. Kazmir finished the season with a record of 3-6 and an ERA of 5.49 in 59.1 IP. Kazmir still needed to build up his value and decided to pitch in the Puerto Rican winter league. He had great results there, and was signed to a minor league deal by the Cleveland Indians on December 21st, 2012.
Kazmir entered the Indians spring training having to compete for the 5th starter spot with prospects Trevor Bauer, Cory Kluber, and another non-roster invite, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kazmir's spring was very impressive, though, and he won the spot.
Unfortunately, Kazmir sprained an abdominal muscle playing catch and had to be placed on the disabled list again. After one rehab start he returned to a MLB mound on April 20th. Things didn't go well though in that start, either, and Kazmir only lasted three and a third innings while allowing six runs on eight hits. That was Kazmir's worst start of the season, though, and he was able to put in a great performance for the Indians.
The miraculous comeback saw Kazmir finish the season with a 4.04 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 158 IP in 29 games. That offseason, Kazmir was a free agent and his season earned him a two-year deal with the Oakland Athletics worth $22 million.
On April 2nd, Kazmir made his Athletics debut and dominated his former club, the Indians. Kazmir's line on the day: 7.1 innings pitched, no runs given up, three hits, no walks, five strikeouts.
Kazmir continued to put in great performances, heading into the all-star break, he was 11-3 with a 2.38 ERA. He was named to his third All-Star game for his efforts.
Toward the end of the year, Kazmir had a couple of bad starts that brought his numbers down dramatically, but nonetheless, he finished the season with an ERA of 3.55, a 3.35 FIP, and 190.1 IP in 32 games.
In 2015, Kazmir will be in the starting rotation and in the final year of his two-year deal with Oakland.
Career Stat Line: 19.6 WAR, 91-79 (W-L), 4.07 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 1.365 WHIP, 1370.1 IP, 1319 SO, 8.7 SO/9 in 241 games
New Era - Unlaced series with Scott Kazmir Link
*Stats and videos were pulled from MLB.com, BaseballCube, and BaseballReference