Game 20 Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals

Jamie Squire

Its first place versus last place, with a twist worthy of M. Night Shamalan - THE ROYALS ARE THE ONES IN FIRST PLACE.

Tonight, Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana will face off at Kauffman Stadium. Two years ago, the two were teammates on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Kazmir had once been a flame-throwing two-time All-Star, but had been a huge bust since being acquired by the Angels, and he would only throw one inning of work that season. Santana would post a 3.38 ERA with four complete games that year in a loaded Angels rotation. Kazmir would be released by the Angels that summer, while Santana would go on to struggle in 2012 with the Angels before being traded to the Royals this past winter.

The acquisition of Santana was panned by many as an overpay by the Royals after they agreed to take on most of his $12 million salary. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians were praised by many when they took a cheap flyer on Scott Kazmir and he excelled in spring training with a lively fastball.

Now its one month into the season and Kazmir has been largely hurt. He has made one start, and it was a terrible start. Santana, meanwhile, has been one of the better pitchers in the league. He has thrown strikes, missed bats, and kept the Royals in the game despite their anemic offense.

Top AL Pitchers, BB/9 ratio

Bartolo Colon, OAK

0.35

Nick Tepesch, TEX

1.27

Kevin Correia, MIN

1.27

Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA

1.42

Ervin Santana, KCR

1.55

*-Just want to point out that Nick Tepesch was drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 draft in our own backyard - he hails from Blue Springs, Missouri. We decided to take Michael Giovenco instead. But it takes 6-8 years to develop starting pitching!

In fact, Santana's control numbers are among the best in Royals history.

Royals Pitchers All-Time, BB/9 ratio

Doug Bird, 1976

1.41

Bret Saberhagen, 1985

1.45

Bret Saberhagen, 1989

1.48

Paul Byrd, 2002

1.50

Ervin Santana, KCR

1.55

Can it continue? Probably not. These walk numbers are far better than what Santana has done in the past, with the only season being even close to this was his 2008 season when he posted a 3.49 ERA walked just 1.9 per nine innings and nearly struck out a hitter per inning. But sometimes pitchers learn to throw strikes later in their career as we've seen with Mark Gubicza, Kyle Lohse, and Bartolo Colon.

I'm all for the strategy of taking flyers on guys like Scott Kazmir. And maybe Santana will end up being a bust this year. But sometimes you have to pay for talent rather than hoping a lottery ticket pans out, and so far, Dayton's purchase looks pretty good.

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