Pitching Matchup of the Day – April 5, 2016

Welcome to the first installment of what (hopefully) looks to be an everyday publication here at Baseball Essential, my “Pitching Matchup of the Day.”

It’s as simple as it sounds — every day, I’ll choose one starting pitching matchup from around the league that I find particularly interesting or exciting and give a quick few words about it. Maybe, if there are any others really notable, I’ll give a sentence or so about an “honorable mention” at the end. So, without further ado, here’s my first pick for Matchup of the Day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Norm Hall/Getty Images North America & Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America

Norm Hall/Getty Images North America & Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America

Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Diego Padres, 10:10 PM ET
LAD: Scott Kazmir (2015: 7-11, 183.0 IP, 3.10 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 7.6 K/9)
SD: James Shields (2015: 13-7, 202.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 9.6 K/9)

After breaking into the majors at just 20 years old and accumulating a 3.51 ERA in nearly 700 innings during his first four full seasons from 2005 to 2008, Scott Kazmir looked like he had a long, successful, and lucrative career ahead of him. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in 2009, and from that season through 2010, he racked up a 5.42 ERA in just under 300 innings with the Rays and Angels. Then, Kazmir pitched just 1.2 innings in 2011 and missed the entire 2012 season, and his career looked just about over.

Kazmir came back, however, and has been successful since, and he split last season between Oakland and Houston. He began the year hot, posting an impressive 2.38 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 109.2 innings with Oakland, but cooled off with Houston, pitching to a 4.17 ERA and 5.19 FIP. You can see how different Kazmir was with the Athletics and the Astros when comparing his numbers side-by-side.

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Nevertheless, the Dodgers took a chance on Kazmir, signing him to a three-year, $48 million deal this offseason. Kazmir is going to need to be something much closer to the pitcher he was in Oakland than the pitcher he was in Houston if he wants to earn that paycheck and help the Dodgers overcome the loss of Zack Greinke to the division-rival Diamondbacks.

On the other side of the ball is another hurler with something to prove in James Shields. A teammate of Kazmir’s from 2006 to 2009, Shields also saw his first taste of major-league success with the Rays, and earned his first (and only) All-Star appearance in 2011, when he pitched to a 2.82 ERA in 249.1 innings, including an astounding 11 complete games and four shutouts.

After seven years with Tampa Bay, Shields moved west to Kansas City, where he had great success, pitching to a 3.18 ERA across 68 starts and over 450.0 innings pitched. This performance earned him a generous contract worth four years and $75 million from the Padres and general manager A.J. Preller last offseason. However, his first season in a Padres uniform was less than stellar, as he pitched to an ERA of nearly 4.00 and a FIP almost 4.50. Shields saw his strikeout numbers jump last season, but so did his walks, and in turn his WHIP inflated from 1.18 in 2014 to 1.33 in 2015.

Shields, like Kazmir, has three years left on his current contract and isn’t getting any younger. Both pitchers will be looking to improve upon their 2015 campaigns, and their season debuts will be their first step towards achieving that goal. Look for both pitchers to come out and compete hard from the get-go in this early-season National League West matchup between two Southern California clubs.

Honorable Mentions:

Houston Astros @ New York Yankees, 1:05 PM ET: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahiro Tanaka – Last year’s AL Cy Young winner takes on the Japanese superstar Tanaka, both making their second straight Opening Day start. Game was originally scheduled for yesterday at 1:05 PM ET, but was postponed due to inclement weather.

Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians, 1:10 PM ET: David Price vs. Corey Kluber – The Red Sox’s new $217 Million Man squares off against the 2014 AL Cy Young award winner in what may be one of the best pitching matchups the American League offers all season. Game was originally scheduled for yesterday at 4:10 PM ET and was also postponed due to weather.

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