Funny how a week can change everything. Last week I questioned Mike Scioscia’s decision to start Joe Saunders in Game 2. Today I’m saying he should start him more. This, of course, is a complete second-guess. Since the original post we saw Saunders pitch well in Game 2, and then saw Kazmir struggle in Game 4. It made Mike Scioscia’s reasoning obvious, but it also brings up another question: should Kazmir have been starting at all in this series — especially with the Angels down two games to one?
Kazmir, as we discussed before the game, had a rough 2009. He started out horribly, pitching to an ERA over 7.00 before hitting the DL for most of June. He returned and brought that ERA down a bit, but was still inadequate as a starter, and a huge disappointment compared to his 2005 through 2008 performances. He pitched better after the trade, but again, those starts were all in September. Rosters expand then, and some teams go from win mode to talent evaluation mode. It makes for specious September results. It appears Kazmir was a beneficiary of this, as he’s been terrible in the postseason.
It’s not fair to look back on Kazmir’s 2008 playoff run, in which he allowed 12 runs in 25.2 innings (4.20 ERA), because 1) it wasn’t that bad, and 2) as we’ve seen from CC and Alex this postseason, past playoff indicators are not not necessarily predictive of future performance. The combination of regular season and 2009 playoffs, however, should have been enough to convince Scioscia to do what the Yankees did, bringing his ace back on three days’ rest to negate some of the pitching advantage the Yankees had last night. He didn’t, and Kazmir’s short performance cost his team.
In his lone ALDS start, the Red Sox rocked Kazmir. Through six innings he allowed five runs, walking three and striking out just one. That looks a lot like his pitching lines from earlier in the regular season. Apparently Scioscia grew concerned after this start, too. He wanted a lefty to start a game at Yankee Stadium, and instead of calling on Kazmir, who has pitched very well against the Yankees in his career, he went to Joe Saunders. The move worked out — so well, in fact, that perhaps Scioscia’s best bet was to get Saunders a Game 5 start.
But Scioscia stuck with his guy. He did it in Game 2 with Saunders and it worked out. He wasn’t so lucky in Game 4. Now, even if the Angels battle back to bring the series to seven games, they’ll have Jered Weaver on the mound rather than John Lackey. That’s not to downplay Weaver’s talent or skill. He’s a good pitcher who helped get the Angels to where they are. There’s a reason, however, that Scioscia didn’t start him in Game 2 at the Stadium. With the three-man rotation he would have started at the Stadium, but in Game 6.
All this comes from the ivory tower, of course. Scioscia knows his players better than anyone, and wants to put them in the best position to win. Given Kazmir’s regular season and 2009 postseason performances, however, it looks like a poor decision to give him the Game 4 start. Then again, I’m the guy who thought he should have started Game 2, so my ivory tower musings are not the final word. Sometimes even good decisions backfire.