His season statistics are awesome. A 9-3 record, a 2.66 earned run average, a 1.01 WHIP and 84 strikeouts against just 21 walks in 98.0 innings pitched. Yes, Oakland Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir is off to an incredible first half of the season, ranking among the top five in several major pitching categories. The veteran starter has been all that Oakland could ask for and more, turning into the bona fide ace of the staff just one-and-a-half seasons from being out of MLB for an entire year.
Based on season stats, Kazmir is turning into an automatic starter for fantasy baseball managers. ESPN.com has him rated as the eighth-best starter in fantasy baseball, just a shade behind Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish and ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers righty Zack Greinke.
His numbers back it up: 12 quality starts in 16 appearances this season. (He was thrown out of a game on May 17th against Cleveland after 1.1 innings.) Needless to say, Kazmir is definitely a long-term keeper for most fantasy leagues, particular American League-only leagues.
However, if you have the roster flexibility, a surprising move would be to bench Kazmir for this week. Kazmir is coming off his worst start of season, when he allowed seven earned runs and eight hits in just three innings. The nine-year vet is scheduled to have two starts this week—one against the Detroit Tigers on Monday and another on Saturday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. His career numbers indicate that it might be a good time to sit him this week—if you are able to.
Kazmir has been beaten up a bit by the Tigers, a team he faced 14 times throughout his career. His record is 5-5 with a modest 3.64 ERA and a decent .224 opponents’ batting average. However, this year’s Tigers roster is a lot more dangerous, with several right-handed hitters who have enjoyed tremendous success against Kazmir.
Detroit’s potential lineup could include righties Torii Hunter (.292 career average against Kazmir), Victor Martinez (.478) and Rajai Davis (.500 in 18 at-bats). Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera has hit .261/.370/.522 against Kazmir. The Tigers as a team are hitting .274 versus lefties, with outfielder Austin Jackson hitting .323 on the season against southpaws.
Look for the Tigers to light up Kazmir on Monday, particularly since he has had a lot more difficulty on the road this season (3.78 away ERA versus 1.61 home ERA).
As for Saturday’s matchup against Toronto, Kazmir hasn’t necessarily struggled too much against the Blue Jays. However, there are some stats that stand out in deciding to sit him this week.
Kazmir is only 4-6 in his career against Toronto in 16 starts, with a 3.80 ERA. Though many of the Blue Jays hitters have not faced Kazmir more than a handful of times, few of them have had modest success against him, including Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, who owns a .360 career batting average facing Kazmir. Right fielder Jose Bautista has more walks (five) than hits (three) versus him, good enough for a .417 on-base percentage.
Though the A’s will be playing the Blue Jays in Oakland, there is potential for a struggle against Toronto. The Jays beat the A’s back in May, 3-2 in Toronto, with Kazmir allowing three runs in seven innings. He walked one but only tallied two strikeouts, and Blue Jays second baseman Steve Tolleson went yard.
Kazmir might not exactly get lit up by the Blue Jays this weekend, but he could take the loss if Oakland does not supply enough run support or if he experiences just one terrible inning.
Consider benching him this week and picking up or inserting starting pitchers like Los Angeles Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs (eligible to come off the disabled list); Cincinnati Reds righty Mat Latos (up against the lowly San Diego Padres on Monday); Cleveland Indians righty Justin Masterson (cleared to start on Tuesday versus the Los Angeles Dodgers; or even Mets right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (always a possibility he’ll throw eight shutout innings with six walks).
Yes, benching Kazmir seems illogical given his performance this season. But just for a week, maybe fantasy baseball owners should consider resting him.
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