Scott Kazmir Is Busted

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.

kazmir1

kazmir2

kazmir3

kazmir4

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.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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joser
Guest
joser
7 years 1 month ago

Isn’t this the kind of thing we’ve seen from pitchers with shoulder issues (rotator cuff, etc) in the past? I bet the MRI finds something, and they shut him down for the rest of the year — either to heal, or for surgery. Shoulder issues are notoriously difficult to treat, and sometimes even to find, so it might take more tests too.

R.J. Anderson
Member
7 years 1 month ago

Ugh.

big baby
Guest
big baby
7 years 1 month ago

He’s lost almost 4 mph off of his fastball since 04. Revisionist Mets History: They were right!!!!!!!!

During his chat at BP yesterday, Joe Sheehan named Kazmir as a sleeper candidate to transition into the bullpen.

Durability problems, endurance problems, loss of arsenal.

R M
Guest
R M
7 years 1 month ago

They probably could have used Kazmir all those years he was dominant….who knows what might have been. Stop trying to make yourself feel good. Yes, I’m trying to beat you down emotionally.

Ray F.
Guest
Ray F.
7 years 1 month ago

Excuse me? Do you not remember what the Mets got in return?

Even with Kazmir’s regression, Victor Zambrano<<<<<Scott Kamir

Michael
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Isn’t Kazmir historically a second half pitcher? Is there any way to determine if his fastball improves further into summer?

Troy Patterson
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Looking at his Pitch F/x on his fangraphs page it doesn’t look like it gets faster as the summer goes. Last year he was fairly stable all year although below his 2007 speed.

I didn’t even like him when his K/9 fell to 9. There aren’t to many pitcher who can get away with a 4+ BB/9. If they can they don’t do it for to long.

TomT
Guest
TomT
7 years 1 month ago

Last night he walked the first 2 batters and then gave up a homer to the 3rd hitter. He then struck out 7 and did not walk anyone the rest of the way. He has had difficulties in the 1st inning so I am not sure moving him to the bullpen would be a great idea.

alskor
Guest
alskor
7 years 1 month ago

Id rather have Victor Zambrano, frankly.

OsandRoayals
Guest
OsandRoayals
7 years 1 month ago

Only if the rays suddenly become an NL team.

Didn’t Kazmir miss the first month or two last season with an elbow injury? I’m wondering if that healed correctly and if he might have tried to compensate for taht changing his mechanics. A small change in mechanics after an injury could be responsible for losing his slider and his velocity.

kris
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

I thought Kazmir was having a Rick Ankiel moment for a while. He coudln’t come close to the strike zone. Pena talked to him, Navarro? came out and talked to him, everyone was talking at him!

By the way, when you’re missing the strike zone by four feet, being a second half pitcher doesn’t really have much merit.

Without his slider, he’s a blow-up waiting to happen. With his slider, he’s’ an arm injury waiting to happen.

The rays should pick and choose based on their playoff hopes. Winning the world series is worth losing Kazmir for a year..

cws05nuts
Guest
cws05nuts
7 years 1 month ago

Hey Dave – Enjoy your articles. Could you follow-up with similar analysis for Bobby Jenks (Sox fan and worried), Javier Vazquez (fantasy related – if you do could you look and see if he has a statistically significant blow-up inning), and finally Edinson Volquez (curiousity). Pre-emptive thanks and cheers!

Nacho
Guest
Nacho
7 years 1 month ago

Dave, better job this time around. Its a lot easier to believe small sample size data when there is some strong supplemental data suggesting that data is telling. In this case that data is the pitch speeds and pitch usage patterns.

I wonder however, just how much variance there is in a pitchers average speed on a FB, or secondary pitches, over different starts and how well that correlates with performance stats like FIP, K/9, BB/9, etc… So I think this is data is very telling, but to really cement these kind of conclusions from small samples I’d like to see just how often a pitcher that loses 4 MPH over one or more starts sees a drastic dip in performance. It would also be telling to know how often pitchers that have this happen to them land on the DL vs. recover and pitch pretty much as normal. I suppose those answers are intuitive, but it would be nice to have some real numbers to go along with the intuitive answer.

Nacho
Guest
Nacho
7 years 1 month ago

I guess I should say, “….easier to believe small sample size performance data when there is some strong supplemental physically based data (ie. Pitch f/x, bat speeds, time to first base, that kind of thing)…” to be clear.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
7 years 1 month ago

I think the Rays have a long-term plan for Price. The management has shown the willingness to sacrafice and stick to their long-term vision despite short-term setbacks.

I don’t expect to see Price before July; maybe not even until September. He has more development left at the AAA level.

Scott
Guest
Scott
7 years 1 month ago

This is funny. Price will be up in June.

Todd
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

My god your graphs are right on. But madden is not accostomed to change. Navarro? Upton still in line-up? he’ wait until they finish in last place to make a change

KG
Guest
KG
7 years 1 month ago

Seriously, Todd? You’re advocating dropping Upton from the lineup? Sure, he’s hitting terribly, but with his track record and talent, there’s no reason to believe he won’t turn it around. That’s a terrible decision. On the other hand, Joe Maddon strikes me as someone who’s more open to change than a lot of managers. Sometimes he misses, but from my impressions, he is very willing to experiment.

Tim
Guest
Tim
7 years 1 month ago

5 infielders and 2 outfielders would agree with you.

Jesus
Guest
Jesus
7 years 1 month ago

That actually seems rather unfair. They accepted those millions of dollars to be the absolute best in the world at playing a game that makes loads and loads of money. I’ve never heard the part of that contract that says they can’t complain about things once in a while.

Jesus
Guest
Jesus
7 years 1 month ago

^ That’s supposed to be in response to Steve.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
7 years 1 month ago

Didn’t you hear? Kid K said it wasn’t his fault he’s not comfortable on the mound, it is the fans’ fault! Sounds like he wants a trade. I say give it to him! (I have lived in several major league towns and I have never seen a team of “professionals” blame their fans than this team. This team whines more about its fans than the Kansas City Royals do!)

Mark
Guest
Mark
7 years 1 month ago

To be fair, the Rays had to go to the World Series to earn even a whiff of interest from the fan base. I’d probably be tired of busting my ass every night too.

Steve
Guest
Steve
7 years 1 month ago

To be fair, they make millions of dollars a year so they arn’t allowed to complain.

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