The approach to player acquisition used by the Oakland Athletics has always been a bit different. And while much of that focus has been on how the A’s select offensive players, Oakland took a calculated risk this offseason by acquiring pitcher Scott Kazmir. Kazmir got a total of five outs in the 2011 and 2012 Major League Baseball seasons, bouncing around in the minor leagues to independent baseball while trying to keep his dream alive.
After a 10-9 campaign with the Cleveland Indians last season that saw Kazmir return to walk just 47 and strikeout 162 in 158 innings over 29 starts, the Athletics swooped in and signed Kazmir as a free agent on Dec. 4 of last year. One would be fair to wonder if, with a healthy new contract in hand, Kazmir would have the same drive and be the same quality starter he was last year for the Indians.
Two starts into the new MLB season and Kazmir has erased all doubts. He won his second consecutive start Monday afternoon as Oakland knocked off the Minnesota Twins 8-3 in the Twins’ home opener. Kazmir wasn’t perfect Monday by any means, giving up three runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts over six innings. But for the season, the 30-year-old lefty from Houston has an ERA of just 2.03, a WHIP of 0.98 (anything below one is extremely good for a starting pitcher) and he’s fanned 10 and walked four in 13.1 innings.
Such performances are key to the Athletics if they are going to be a factor in the American League West. At 4-3, Oakland is a half-game behind the Seattle Mariners at the top of the division, and while it’s still early, having Kazmir on point for a majority of the season gives A’s fans a realistic belief that they can be in the playoffs for a third consecutive season. It also gives some credence to how Oakland goes about finding players and that their trust in spending $22 million (according to ESPN) over two years was worth it for a pitcher who once couldn’t even find his way onto a Major League roster.