Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Did Joe Maddon just screw the Rays

By announcing that Scott Kazmir will start game 5 instead James Shields, did Joe Maddon just leave the door open for the Sox to stage another ALCS comeback? While the Sox are not the same team they were in 2004 or in 2007, the move by Maddon is a questionable one for a few reasons.

Scott Kazmir has been terrible in the late part of the season. He finished with a 2-2 record in September, but had a 5.19 ERA and allowed 38 base runners in 25 innings. The playoffs have not been much kinder. He is 1-0 but has a 6.52 ERA and looked awful against the Sox. Combine September and October, and you have a starter that has, over 7 starts, struggled with 5.50 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and giving his team just 5 innings a start while surrendering 12 home runs. By starting Kazmir the Rays run the risk of not only allowing Boston to see a game 6, but you have the potential of jump starting an offense that has been anemic.

If it does go to a game 6 you will then have James Shields throw against Josh Beckett. There is something not right with Beckett, but like we saw 2004 with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez in 1999, Beckett could go out there and gut it out for 7 innings as he, and the two mentioned, we battlers who could somehow win with their B and C stuff.

If Boston were to take game 6 and force a game 7, then you have Jon Lester on the mound for Boston. While he was roughed up against the Rays in game 2, he was very good against the Rays in the regular season, going 3-0 in 3 starts with a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings, 19 K and 6 walks.

While I don’t think we are going to see a repeat of 2004 and 2007, Joe Maddon has put himself in a precarious situation with this change in starters. True, Shields has been lights out at home, but in the playoffs, you don’t let teams hang around and you don’t say, "yeah, we may lose game 5, but it’s okay, we’ve got our man for game 6". Too many things can happen. What if he has to burn through his pen? What if the Sox bats get hot? Will they press in a game 6 thinking about how Boston has come back numerous times in the playoffs? Certainly, momentum would go back in Boston’s favor.

Now, of course, this all hinges on Boston winning game 5, and certainly Kazmir is as able to win a game as Dice-K is to lose a game–say nothing of the fact that Boston looks like an average team at best while the Rays look like world beaters–but Joe Maddon just may have left that door open.


Blogging Man said...

This is a dumb article. Your "what ifs" are so numerous, that your conclusion makes 0 sense. Yes, "what if" they Sox get hot all of a sudden (they've been ICE COLD all series and Kazmir's last outing, which was poor, didn't ignite their bats - witness Game 3 and 4). "What if" Kazmir struggles - he might struggle, but putting your opening day pitcher, who, in an "off" year throws an ERA of 3.49 and wins 12 games is hardly opening the door as you suggest. Using that logic, you could write an article about how Tito is opening a door by not accelerating Lester to Game 6.

Regardless, Kazmir has had 1 really bad start in his last 10 regular season starts (9 earned runs against the Red Sox at the Trop) and he's thrown well enough to win in just about every other start despite struggling sometimes (Game 2 was not great, for sure). Don't forget that he did win the ALDS Game 2 though.

Pitching is as mental as it is physical and sometimes a pitcher needs to change things up. Maddon is putting Kazmir in a situation that has worked for him in the past (he has a very good ERA and record at Fenway), despite what you seem to think, this is NOT a must win game for the Rays (we have Shields and Garza ready to roll, if needed, and the Rays have a wicked good record at the Trop at 57-24 in regulard season and 3-1 in postseason. The one key "what if" you didn't mention is that you assume that the Rays bats go cold. That might be the dumbest assumption of them all given what the Rays have done in 3 straight games (e.g. they are locked in).

Hardly a reason to worry as you suggest.

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Anonymous said...

You also have to factor in who is going to pitch on Wednesday should the Rays advance.

Now with Shields going Saturday he is out. However, had they won last night, and he had gotten the nod on Wednesday, he will have had 10 days off between starts. His career numbers are not as good when he has 6+ days off (4-4, 4.54). Had he started and the Rays advanced to the Series, he would be in line to pitch game 1 on 5 days rest, where his numbers are better (7-7, 3.80).

As for Kazmir, over his last 10 regular season starts, he failed to pitch more than 6 innings in all of those starts and in 4 of those starts surrendered 3 ER runs or more. Not the worse 10 game stretch, but not that good either. Then you look at what he did against Boston this season and post-season--0-2, 9.28.

Then you look even more recent at how Shields and Kazmir pitched against the Sox earlier in the series.

As for the "dumbest if" as to the Rays' bats going cold, something you have to consider since their 3 game tear was arguably the best 3 game stretch in team history. Bats go cold and bats heat up.

When you have momentum, why chance it by running a pitcher out there who got roughed up a few days earlier and also not allow arguably your best pitcher to game one of the World Series on regular rest?

As for Lester, yeah, why not move him up. He is 15-2 with a 3.89 ERA when throwing on 4 days rest. Why not throw him game 6 when game 7 is not a guarantee?


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