Scott Kazmir is broken, and it’s starting to get to the point where we have to wonder if he’s fixable. First, some graphs.
At the top, we see Kazmir’s walk and strikeout rate trends over the years. They’re not good. From 2004 to 2007, Kazmir was among the elite strikeout guys in baseball, averaging 10+ K/9 in three of the four seasons. He always has struggled with his command, but the overpowering stuff made up for it.
Last year, he famously “lost his slider”, as you can see in the third image. He cut his slider usage in half and saw his GB% sink accordingly, becoming an extreme flyball pitcher. His strikeout rate dropped some, but not drastically, and while he had definitely taken a step back, there was hope that he would rebound after rediscovering his slider this spring.
That hasn’t happened. The fourth image is a velocity histogram of Kazmir’s start last night. His fastest pitch of the night was 90.7 MPH. His fastball averaged 89.05 MPH, confirming the data in the third chart – his velocity is off by a couple MPH this year on all pitches, not just his fastball. He’s throwing a bunch of sliders again, but they’re of the 80 MPH variety, not the 84 MPH power slider that he used to throw.
Those missing MPH are having a pretty big impact. Batters are making contact with 84% of the pitches Kazmir throws this year, way up from his 75% career average. In turn, his strikeouts are down, but he hasn’t been able to offset the loss of dominance with a corresponding improvement in his walk rate. His 4.91 BB/9 is the highest he’s posted since his rookie season.
Not surprisingly, this version of broken Kazmir isn’t very good. His FIP is 4.78 and last night’s beating pushed his ERA to 6.00. The Rays have David Price waiting in Triple-A, and with Kazmir looking like he needs a stint on the disabled list and an MRI, they might not be able to keep him down on the farm much longer. This Rays team needs a boost, and until they figure out what’s wrong with Kazmir, it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting it from his spot in the rotation.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.