MLB history: Forgotten stars of the current AL East teams

Mar 21, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Scott Kazmir (16) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch, Glendale. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Scott Kazmir (16) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a Spring Training game at Camelback Ranch, Glendale. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports /
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL – AUGUST 15: Pitcher Scott Kazmir #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays leaves the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 15, 2009 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – AUGUST 15: Pitcher Scott Kazmir #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays leaves the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 15, 2009 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images) /

Scott Kazmir, Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are such a new part of MLB history that their forgotten star, Scott Kazmir, may actually still be active. That isn’t entirely clear because he is a free agent in a lockout year, and he would be entering his age-38 season.

Kazmir is currently 108-97 with a career ERA of 4.02 – quite decent for a 13-year career largely in the AL – but certainly not a Hall of Fame career. So, it might be easy to forget that he was once an extraordinarily promising young pitcher and a mainstay of Tampa’s rotation for several years in a row, including the first year the team made it to the World Series.

Taken 15th by the Mets in the 2002 amateur draft, Kazmir was traded before he ever reached the majors, much to the chagrin of New York fans. He then became, almost immediately, a high-profile example of a young pitcher somewhat terribly overused.

Three years out of high school in 2005, and having thrown exactly 261.2 innings in professional competition altogether, the left-hander was pressed by the Rays to pitch 186 innings at baseball’s highest level.

Not surprisingly, the following year his starts dropped from 32 to 24, but he remained one of the Rays luminaries on a fairly bad team, a team that would eventually assemble a talented core of young and underappreciated players who won the AL crown, the first in their brief MLB history.

Between 2004 and ’08, Kazmir was assembling a 47-37 record and 3.61 ERA for a team that finished last in their division three times, fourth once, and first once. In 2008, of course, the team advanced to the World Series and lost to the Phillies. In that five-year stretch, Kazmir was twice an All-Star.

The lefty didn’t pitch terribly for the Rays in that Series, but he was charged with the first game loss after giving up three runs in six innings. He also started the Series’ final game, which was suspended by a dreadful, freezing rain before Philadelphia’s ultimate win.

Baseball-Reference understates the matter of the pitcher’s overuse as follows: “In 2009, Kazmir began to show the strain of having thrown so many pitches at a young age. He made 20 starts for the Rays, but his ERA was a terrible 5.92….”

Scott Kazmir has endured for 13 years in MLB, largely as a starting pitcher, throwing baseballs for seven different teams. However, in only four of those campaigns has he managed to exceed 180 innings. Perhaps that might have been different if two of those seasons had not occurred before he turned 24.

Perhaps he might have been a little sharper for those two starts against the Phillies in 2008, following a season in which he pitched only 152.1 innings, which in turn followed 206.2 innings for a last place team.

So, the next time somebody wants to tell you about some game in which Nolan Ryan threw 650 pitches, just say, “Yeah, yeah – two words: Scott Kazmir.”