Considering the manner in which his 2016 campaign came to an undesirable close, many fans of the Dodgers were not overwhelmingly excited in November when starting pitcher Scott Kazmir chose not to opt out of his current contract and remain with Los Angeles in 2017. Yet after showing a few glimpses of his former successful self in the early portion of last season, Kazmir definitely has the potential to bolster and strengthen the Dodgers’ rotation if he can stay healthy and maintain consistent mechanics throughout the year.
The 33-year-old lefty has two years and $32 million remaining on the three-year deal he signed with the Dodgers in December of 2015. The original contract allowed Kazmir to opt out and become a free agent after one season.
“Bottom line, this is the place I want to be,” Kazmir told fans and reporters at the most recent FanFest extravaganza at Dodger Stadium. “I’m three weeks ahead of schedule. I want to be at the top of that rotation. The way things went last year, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I want to prove to the fans and the front office that brought me here that they made the right decision.”
Kazmir, who was among the few stalwarts of the pitching staff in the first half of 2016, tallied a 10-6 record with a 4.56 ERA and a 4.48 FIP along with 134 strikeouts and 52 walks in 136-1/3 innings of work over the entirety of the campaign. He was often criticized for both his high home run and walk rates, having recorded a 3.4 BB/9 and surrendering a total of 21 long balls on the year.
Kazmir made only one start after August 22 because of neck and back issues and was ultimately diagnosed with thoracic spinal inflammation in September, eliminating him from participating in the club’s playoff run.
If the Dodgers can indeed get the effective Kazmir for a good portion of 2017, there’s no question the rotation would benefit tremendously. Kaz did show multiple flashes of brilliance last year, most notably in his first outing of the campaign against the Padres, when he threw six innings of one-hit, shutout ball surrendering no walks and striking out five. He also dealt a similar effort to the Cubs in May where he duplicated the six-inning shutout endeavor, walking one and allowing one hit while striking out seven. Against the Rockies in July, he fanned a season-high 10 batters during another six-inning shutout affair.
Still, the poor outings from the Houston native haunted the minds of many fans for the majority of the season, nearly reminiscent of a “Jekyll and Hyde” type of schizophrenia. His second outing of the year was dreadful, when he got rung up for six earned runs, including three long balls, in four innings of work against the Giants. Kazmir never did really find a consistent groove during the year, and it almost seemed as if an ineffective outing always followed a strong performance.
However, if his execution on the bump lives up to his current state of enthusiasm, a return to form similar to that of his days with the Rays would be extremely welcoming. Based on his current bill of health, TBPC projects Kazmir to begin the 2017 campaign smack dab in the middle of the Dodgers’ Opening Day rotation.
While Steamer has Kaz pegged for a 8-7 record with a 3.74 ERA and a 3.91 FIP over 118 innings of work, many of the predictions for a player of his nature almost seem to be an exercise in futility.
In the end, though, only time will provide the real answers. Hopefully, for the sake of the Dodgers, Kazmir lives up to his own hype.
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