In terms of Scott Kazmir’s history with the Cleveland Indians, I’ve oddly been the lead historian.
Back on Nov. 23, I shared that the Indians were one of several teams seen scouting the 29-year-old. And on Dec. 21, I reported on his new minor league deal with the Tribe. Then, I was there again with the post on April 20 as he was set to make his Indians debut.
Since then, Kazmir, who pitched in 2012 with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters near his hometown of Houston, has been dynamite. Last season, Cleveland had one of the worst starting pitching rotations in recent history. Kazmir’s been the most surprising reason behind this year’s impressive pitching turnaround.
2004 (TB): 8 games, 2-3 record, 5.67 ERA, 33.1 IP, 33 H, 21 BB, 41 K
2005-2008 (TB): 117 starts, 45-34 record, 3.51 ERA, 689.2 IP, 623 H, 311 BB, 742 K
2009 (TB/LAA): 26 starts, 10-9 record, 4.89 ERA, 147.1 IP, 149 H, 60 BB, 117 K
2010 (LAA): 28 starts, 9-15 record, 5.94 ERA, 150.0 IP, 158 H, 79 BB, 93 K
2011 (LAA): 1 start, 0-0 record, 27.00 ERA, 1.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 K
2013 (CLE): 25 starts, 8-7 record, 4.17 ERA, 136.0 IP, 136 H, 43 BB, 131 K
What made this left-hander such a dominant up-and-coming young starter was his electric strikeout ability. He led the AL with 239 strikeouts back in 2007 and tallied 9.7 K/9 in an impressive four-year stretch. His stats then wildly declined over the next three years, with a 5.54 ERA and only a 6.3 K/9 ratio, as he fell out of the majors.
Friday night then showed how dominant he still can be. In his first career start against the New York Mets, the team that drafted him as the No. 15 pick way back in 2002, he struck out a season-high 12 in six shutout innings. It was the most strikeouts he had in a game since 2007.
Of the season, Kazmir now has an 8.7 K/9 ratio. He also has an impressive nine starts of six-plus innings with a maximum of one earned run, which trails Justin Masterson”s 12 for the team lead.
As I remarked on Twitter last night, Kazmir is making himself a prime candidate for a large free agent contract this winter. If the voting works out well too, he also could be a favorite for the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
[Related: On Scott Kazmir and My Impending Middle Age]