Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09) faces lefty Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49) tonight in Tampa Bay in game one of the World Series.
Kazmir struggled at the end of the regular season. He took a 3.04 ERA and a 1.17 ratio into the All-Star break, but went 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.38 ratio in 13 starts in the second half. September was his worst month of the year, he threw to a 5.19 ERA and a 1.46 ratio in five starts. He missed about a month of the season with an elbow problem before making his first start of the year on May 4.
Opponents hit just .220 against Kazmir on the year, righties .227 and lefties .198. Righties walked at a much hitter rate, posting a .329 on-base percentage compared to .239 for lefties. He walked 63 of the 501 right-handed batters he faced this year (about 12.6%) and just seven of the 140 left-handed batters (5%). Righties slugged .461 against him, hitting 22 of the 23 home runs he allowed. Kazmir threw just 152 1/3 innings on the year, but only one American League pitcher allowed more home runs to right-handed batters than him (Glen Perkins allowed 23 for the Twins). The flip side of that is that lefties slugged just .275 against him, with just seven extra-bases hits (five doubles) all season.
Kazmir’s vulnerability to righties accentuates the Phillies flaw that has them going into the World Series without a big right-handed bat on the bench. That problem suddenly gets an upgrade to no right-handed DH. Pat Burrell was born to DH, but the options for right-handed corner outfielder are miserable as well and Manuel was curiously unwilling to DH Burrell during inter-league games in the regular season. Coste, Taguchi or Bruntlett are the extra bat the Phils will likely be choosing from in game one. Hope it’s Coste with Burrell in left, but it could be Taguchi or Bruntlett, which would be just about the worst bat you could imagine adding to your lineup in a DH game. If it is Taguchi or Bruntlett, though, I think they should be in left with Burrell as the DH. Seems like a no-brainer, but that may not be the way that Manuel goes. The options improve with the righty Shields on the mound in game two and the chance to put Stairs or Dobbs (or, less likely, Jenkins) in the lineup.
Kazmir has made three starts in the post-season, going 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.53 ratio while striking out 13 in 15 2/3 innings. His best outing of the three was his most recent. In game five of the ALCS he held the Red Sox to a pair of singles over six shutout innings and took a 7-0 lead into the seventh. He was much worse in his first two post-season starts, throwing to a 6.52 ERA and a 1.97 ratio and not going six innings in either outing.
The Phillies and the Rays did not play each other this season. He made one start against the Phils in 2006 and allowed two runs over five innings. Sal Fasano and Abraham Nunez homered off of him in that game. No current Phillie has more than four career at-bats against him.
Cole Hamels, MVP of the NLCS, has been brilliant for the Phillies in the post-season. In three post-season starts he’s 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and an 0.86 ratio. He has struck out 22 in 22 innings.
The long layoff and all the innings for Hamels this year are the things to worry about for the Phils. The 24-year-old Hamels was second in the NL in innings pitched this season with 227 1/3. He last started on October 15, a week ago today.
He doesn’t give up a lot of walks and doesn’t surrender walks in bunches. Including three starts in the post-season he has not walked more than three batters in a game all year. He did give up 28 home runs this season, which tied him for tenth in the NL. He gave up his share of homers to both lefties and righties. Lefties curiously slugged .471 against him, hitting 12 home runs in 228 plate appearances. Hamels was simply better overall this season against righties than against lefties — righties hit .215 against him compared to .262 for lefties. They walked and struck out at a similar rate with lefties hitting for more power.
No current Ray has ever faced him, which could be a huge advantage if Hamels and his wicked changeup are on against Tampa Bay’s young hitters.
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