So the Astros throw Scott Kazmir against Johnny Cueto in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. Here's what you knead to no:
Scott Kazmir has had Teh Bads.
It's been almost a month since Kazmir made it out of the 5th inning, coming at Texas on September 14, when he threw 7IP, 5H/2ER, 4K:1BB - a game that the Astros lost during the Arlington Chainsaw Massacre.
Since then, Kazmir has made three starts: 11.2IP, 22H/13ER, 6K:6BB, 3HBP, 5HR allowed for a slash line of .400/.484/.782 - a 1.266 OPS on a .386 BABIP. The Astros won two of those three games, mainly because they scored 17 runs in those games and pulled Kazmir before he could be the deadline acquisition that actively killed the Astros' season.
Out of 139 pitchers to throw 20+ IP in September/October, Kazmir is 127th in ERA-. His 7.03 FIP is 137th, and his 5.99 xFIP is 138th, only better than Hector Santiago. The Astros are gambling big on Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir's pitches aren't fooling anyone
In September/October, opponents have a .558 SLG against his four-seam fastball, a .515 SLG off his sinker, a .476 SLG off his changeup, and a ridiculous 1.875 SLG off his slider (8 ABs: three doubles, two homers, and an HBP). He has had 11 total ABs in which he threw his curve and cutter, which isn't much at all.
Obviously these numbers are far higher than his 2015 totals, so the Astros are betting that a rough stretch is just that, and Kazmir will get his crap together for a playoff game.
But Kazmir has been pretty good against the Royals.
Kazmir's first start for the Astros was on July 24 at Kansas City, and he made us all get a little #damp by throwing 7IP, 3H/0ER, 3K:1BB. In 292 plate appearances against Kazmir, current Royals players are hitting .244/.287.,374.
Mike Moustakas is 2x13, Lorenzo Cain is 4x24, Alex Gordon is 6x34, Kendrys Morales is 5x18, Alcides Escobar is 7x24. Omar Infante, however, is 11x27 with four doubles, two homers, 2K:3BB, for a 1.244 OPS against Kazmir.
Johnny Cueto has been inconsistent
In his last seven starts, Cueto has thrown 40.1IP, 56H/25ER, 24K:12BB for a 5.58 ERA/1.69 WHIP, and that includes his last start at Minnesota in which he allowed 6H/1ER, 4K:4BB in 5IP. He had racked up three straight decent starts from September 18-29 in which he threw 20IP, 23H/8ER, 11K:5BB.
Johnny Cueto kills lefties
On the year, lefties are hitting .215/.266/.332 against Cueto. He throws his four-seam fastball to lefty hitters most often, and is getting a .148 average and a .205 SLG off of it. If the lefty Astros hitters can take advantage of hopping on the slider, opponents have a .517 SLG in 29 at-bats ending on a slider. That's the pitch opponents have don't the most damage on - all hitters have a .304 average and a .536 SLG on it. His curveball, too - .280 average/.520 SLG and a .240 ISO. So he destroys batters with his four-seam and sinker, but is vulnerable on his other pitches.
Johnny Cueto's numbers against Houston look good and don't matter.
Cueto has only faced current Astros for 95 plate appearances and is allowing a .241/.305/.425 line. Colby Rasmus is 9x27 with 6K:3BB and a .956 OPS. Carlos Gomez is 4x12 with two homers (but is not in the lineup today). Jason Castro and Mike Fiers (yeah, the pitcher) are a combined 0x15, so let's not even worry about that. He has never faced Correa, Gattis, Springer, or Marisnick - who are all in the lineup today.