Hey, look! Another day brings us yet another pitcher to discuss in our ongoing series of free agent profiles. And another pitcher to discuss means we'll run a scouting report on a guy who's pretty-good-not-bad-kinda-OK (this time, it's Scott Kazmir), and then we'll watch as the Colorado Rockies never make a run at him... ever!
Please excuse my cynicism and generally poor attitude—I'm a grumpy gus 97% of the time, anyways—but running through available and realistic free agents this winter inevitably leads you to the conclusion that the Rockies aren't likely to pursue much of anything, most pitchers are a stretch, big money for a solid arm likely won't happen, and we're probably going to be left with a season of Big Pelf.
I get it, though; 2016 isn't going to be a competitive season and the Rockies shouldn't spend even mid-level money to attract a pitcher that, for at least part of his tenure in Denver, would be a good arm on a bad team. But knowing the 2017 free agency class looks to be very light as hurlers go, I'd hope Jeff Bridich is at least kicking the tires on the guys we've been profiling (or other comparable arms) as opposed to putting all of his eggs in next winter's basket when there's a non-zero chance he could come away with nothing, anyways.
Besides, the Rox could use a good veteran arm or two at some point here to help youngsters like Jon Gray and those coming quickly behind him, and Jorge De La Rosa will not be around (or good) forever. Or, hell, we could put all our hopes and dreams upon Chad Bettis and Jordan Lyles, with a healthy side dish of Tyler Chatwood, and BAM! Atomic contenders.
Yeah, so, um... Happy Holidays, or something. #hottakes
Scouting Scott Kazmir
As has been normally the case here, let's look at Kazmir's pertinent recent stats:
Compared to the vast majority of pitchers in Rockies' history, Kazmir—not unlike Mike Leake—is practically in another stratosphere. And while there's a lot to like about him, he'd be a stretch for the Rockies in this specific offseason for a few different reasons.
- All his peripheral stats are things that good pitchers do; good strikeout numbers (though fading slightly later in his career), decent walk numbers, not overly hittable, not prone to the home run.
- His track record speaks for itself as a quality veteran pitcher who has more or less won, or at least been successful, everywhere he has pitched. (That's true of many of the higher quality free agent arms we've examined in this series—here, here, and here).
- For his career, the home run hasn't tripped him up, and even though he's a fly ball pitcher (more on that below), he doesn't get killed by the long ball and could theoretically succeed more than, say, Ian Kennedy.
- Kazmir will be 32 years old in 2016, so the contract he's seeking this winter will likely be the final major one of his career; that's not necessarily a negative point for the Rockies, and Kazmir won't be as expensive as, say, Mike Leake, but he will cost some money and be a major, multi-year investment. Is it worth it for the Rox to take him for multiple years if the club won't win for at least one or two of them?
- Unfortunately, Kazmir doesn't get a considerable amount of ground balls; in 2015, he had a 42.9% ground ball rate against a 37.3% fly ball rate. For his career, he's nearly even: 40.2% ground balls against 40.9% fly balls. It's a wonder he hasn't given up a few more home runs in his career.
- Kazmir gives up quite a bit of hard contact. His career soft contact percentage (15.9%) is
goodbad enough for 376th among qualifying pitchers tracked since 2004. Even though his strikeout numbers are decent, his career .299 BABIP and medium (55.1%) and hard (29.0%) contact percentages ought to concern you. To put it into reference, Kazmir is ranked just four spots ahead of Byung-Hyun Kim (but to be fair, he's just nine spots behind Randy Johnson!).
Scott Kazmir's fit with the Colorado Rockies
Look, Kazmir's fit in Colorado is about what it is with other hurlers of his general talent level and MLB track record: he's a good pitcher with a strong, consistent history who would do better than most people expected if he were to come to Colorado. But, because (a) he will have many good options as he chooses a team this winter, and (b) the Rockies aren't yet in a position to contend in the next year or two, he's not exactly on the short list.
I maintain—as I have since the very start of this series of free agent profiles—that this is the type of pitcher history the Rockies ought to seek out, even a year before the club's supposed contention period. I may be alone in that regard, but I'm of the mind that Jeff Bridich would do well either this winter or next to attract a mid-level, solid free agent starting pitcher to bolster the rotation and eventually replace Jorge De La Rosa as an anchor while young pitchers continue to develop.
But, I must admit with Kazmir specifically, his age (he's several years older than guys like Kennedy, Leake, and Wei-Yin Chen) and his fly ball profile may leave him as not the best fit in Denver, regardless of club contention issues. Ah, well. All this will become more clear when the Winter Meetings come around in a few days.