As we have mentioned several times on this blog, Mike Scioscia has tapped Joe Saunders to pitch Game 2 of the ALCS, with fellow lefty Scott Kazmir going in Game 4. This seems like a strange decision, one that I keep trying to figure out to no avail. The two pitchers have had similar 2009 season, but Kazmir has had the better career and is significantly more likely to shut the Yankees down. Let’s run through possible reasons for this move:
Saunders is pitching better lately:
Nope. Sauders was very good in September, with a 2.89 ERA, .733 OPS against, and a 1.31 WHIP. However, Kazmir was even better, with 1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a .561 OPSA. Essentially Kazmir had turned back into an ace-like pitcher until his poor start against Boston in the ALDS. Is one start really going to cause the Angels to go with the inferior pitcher?
Saunders is better against the Yankees:
Obviously not. Kazmir has better career numbers against NY, and was better against them in 2009 as well (3.20 ERA to 4.72). Kazmir has not started in the new Yankee Stadium, so there is no way to judge how he might do there, which leads to the next point.
Saunders is a better fit for NYS:
This is the one that I have heard the most, that Saunders gets more grounders (.90 GB/FB compared to .52) and therefore is a better fit for Yankee Stadium than a flyball pitcher like Kazmir. However, this leaves out an important portion of the analysis: Saunders gave up a lot more home runs than Kazmir in 2009, serving up 29 compared to 16 by Kaz, albeit in 40 fewer innings. Saunders allowed 1.4 HR/9, while Kazmir allowed just 1 HR/9. Basically, Kazmir allowed a greater number of flyballs yet gave up fewer home runs (6.2 % HR/FB), while Saunders allowed a large percentage of flyballs to leave the park (10.3 % HR/FB).
Saunders will save the bullpen:
Kazmir averaged 5.6 innings per start this year, while Saunders averaged 6. That is a difference of one out. If Mike Scioscia is choosing the lesser pitcher due to one out of bullpen work, then the Angels have bigger bullpen issues that I thought.
To sum up, Kazmir has been better lately, is better against the Yankees, and is probably a better fit for Yankee Stadium. Why he is not starting Game 2 over Saunders is beyond me.
Can you explain it?
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