Second guessing: the decision to start Kazmir


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.

Categories : Playoffs


  1. All this comes from the ivory tower, of course.

    You know it all Socialist.

  2. Mike Axisa says:

    The difference so far in the ALCS is that Scioscia’s overmanaging has worked while Girardi’s overmanaging has backfired.

    Wait, what?

  3. Jeremy says:

    What are you talking about? I thought it was a great decision!

  4. Rose says:

    It’s great how PTI was saying that starting CC on 3 days rest was “overmanaging” by Girardi…

    And everybody still picked Kazmir because of his career numbers against the Yankees.

    Kazmir just hasn’t looked good in the playoffs this year (or even last year for that matter). He was shaky against the Red Sox…and looked even worse against us.

  5. Steve S says:

    What really impressed me about Scioscia was that little conference with the home plate ump on how his catcher could “help” him see the ball better. I mean I know the criticism for the umpires has been rampant but how does a manager negotiate for better calls like that? Essentially the umpire was saying that it may be a strike but your catcher is so big I cant see it so Im calling it a ball. The whole thing smelled funny. But I give Scioscia credit, he knows how to do things and he has umpires kissing his ass during playoff games. After that little conference Napoli went lower and they did start calling the low and inside corner more.

  6. TLVP says:

    Does Lackey have any experience on going on 3 days rest

    • I’m not sure it matters. Before his three starts on three days’ rest last season, Sabathia had done it only once in his career.

      That said, Lackey has started one game on one days’ rest, one game on two days’ rest, and two games on three days’ rest in his regular season career.

      • Raf says:

        wasnt his 2002 WS start on 3 days rest?

      • MattG says:

        Oh, it matters. CC did it before because Milwaukee misses the post-season if he doesn’t. Now that he’s done it, pitched well, and looked good, there is little cause for concern.

        Without that small sample, all you are left with is the intimidating body of evidence from other pitchers.

        It also matters when you consider CC for 3 days rest in the World Series. We know that at some point, this 3 days of rest thing catches up with him. That makes it hard to do again…and if you do it once, you have to believe you’ll need to do it twice in a row.

        • Luckily, there’s 7 full days between yesterday and Game 1 of the WS, so CC can rest up again to get ready to pitch Games 1 and 4 in that series.

          He’d pitch Game 7 on short rest as well… if said Game 7 actually existed. It doesn’t.

          Confidence Level: 27

          • Lefty says:

            Exactly… Confidence level: 28

          • MattG says:

            I’m not sure why you would do it if you’re not planning for game 7. The reason you did it here is because game 7 was on 4 days rest.

            I lie. I know the reason. But is it wise to keep running around your backhand? That leaves the other half of the court wide open.

  7. Bo says:

    Starting CC on 3 days rest was one example of Girardi actually NOT over managing. it was the smart and easy decision. Over managing would have meant he would have started Gaudin.

  8. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    I think the Angels should start Kazmir on Thursday also.

  9. pollo says:

    Anyone get tickets to the WS?

    Fail for me.

  10. MattG says:

    Lackey was never an option for game 4. That means he simply can’t do it.

    A few years back, there were plenty of teams trying to slip their aces into 3 man rotations in the post-season. Results were bad. Teams stopped. This season, the Yankees did it for two reasons:

    1. CC is a freak
    2. Every other start will be on normal rest

  11. Lefty says:

    Question: who would you guys rather start in game 2 in the WS if we were to face off against Philly? I’d rather keep the rotation as is, that way the first two games at Philly we have Pettite and Sabathia against all those lefties in their home park to possibly go for the sweep, I really would prefer to NOT see Burnett go against a fastball AND lefty heavy team at their home park which is a friendly jitters park btw (as is Yankee stadium, but at least we will be the ones feeding off the energy from the home crowd).

    Philly is as tough a place to win as there is, honestly, I might even rather see Pettite on short rest for a game 5 and just let Burnett pitch game 6 at home, that and the fact that if Burnett sets in Philly, we’ll not only lose the DH, but most likely have Molina hitting as well, so we’re down to 7 spots in the lineup, and that’s IF Melky does good that game, because we could just as easily be down to 6 spots in the lineup… what do you guys think? Interested in other peoples’ opinions…

    • Lefty says:

      Fastball hitting team, sorry…

    • MattG says:

      In that situation, I’ll take Posada and Burnett on regular rest in game 5.

      I would be scared to use CC on 3 days in the WS. That would mean that in a potential game 7, CC is going on three days rest for the second time in a row. I think I would rather have him for two dominant starts in games 1 and 5, and for 2 innings in game 7 as needed.

    • Al from BX says:

      I disagree, when we win Thursday, lets leave the rotation the way it is with CC, A.J, AP, and CC again.

    • Kiersten says:

      I don’t want AJ pitching in Philly because the idea of Molina batting 8th is just horrid.

      • Lefty says:

        Not only that, but I don’t want AJ starting with his control issue and his reliance on his FB, esp. if control is an issue… Tht combo. will not bode will in Philly with those hitters…

    • Lefty says:

      Mike, Joe, are any one of you planning on touching up on this topic? would like to get you guys’ opinions…

    • Rose says:

      At Citizens Bank Park

      AJ Burnett – 30.1 IP, 5.04 ERA, 28 hits, 12 walks, 1.319 WHIP
      Andy Pettitte – 12.0 IP, 0.75 ERA, 10 hits, 2 walks, 1.000 WHIP

      Not the best of sample sizes…but there’s an idea.

      There’s still no guarantee that the pitching is going to line up where we have a choice either…

  12. count crapulent says:

    My guess is that Joe leaves the rotation as it’s been with AJ pitching at home and Andy pitching away. Or as much as he can. Tomorrow’s game being an away AJ game.

  13. Tampa Yankee says:

    But what about their pitching depth?!?! Isn’t that the reason why Kaz went and not Lackey and why Santana is pitching out of the pen?

    FYI, ESPN and FOX, just because a team has several starting pitchers, it doesn’t mean they are GOOD starting pitchers (coughRedSoxcough, coughAngelscough)!

  14. Rose says:

    What’s the break look like in between a potential ALCS Game 7 and World Series Game 1?? How many days off in between?

  15. mryankee says:

    You know Kazmir has not been the same since his first few seasons in Tampa Bay. Velocity is not 94-95 now down to 91-92-command is terrible. I am suprised Sciossa went with him and not Santana. Snatan has ben very good and Kazmir has been just ok and he sucked in Boston in Game three. Good for us though if they want to keep Santana as their long man I am cool with that.

  16. Tank Foster says:

    Kazmir probably had a good career line against the Yankees? Maybe since he knew CC was pitching, he didn’t want to “waste” the game with a not-rested Lackey?

    But I agree, Kazmir should start Thurdsay. Him or Matt Palmer.

    • Tank Foster says:

      *He or Matt Palmer.

      • mryankee says:

        Sometimes I wonder if managers just stay with gusy to long, if Sciossa had paid attention to the way Kazmir pitched in Boston and the way Santana has looked heshould have started Santana game four. Instead he was relying on the old Kazmir to show up and he has not been that stud pitcher he was in Tampa for awhile now.

  17. [...] I second guessed the decision to start Scott Kazmir in Game 4 over John Lackey. Subconsciously, I think I was thinking back to the 2005 ALDS, when [...]

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