After beginning the year on the DL, Scott Kazmir came back and struggled through four innings giving up four runs on six hits and three walks. In his next six starts, he was lights out. I was seeing dancing Cy Youngs every outing as he seemed to have it all working. Over those six starts here are his stats:
That is likely one of the best stretches of his career. The only issue, seemingly, was the decrease in K-rate (8.56 k/9). Little did we know that that this would be a forerunner for his struggles the rest of the year. From that point forward, Kazmir's line was nowhere near as impressive and was probably the worst he's pitched since his first year:
His K/9 goes back over 10 which is more in line with his career norms, but his HR-rate (1.84 HR/9) and his BB-rate (4.78 BB/9) skyrocketed. So, what happened to Kazmir last year that caused him to struggle so mightily (compared to his normal super-human self)?
Scott Kazmir is my favorite Ray (although Beej is doing his best to unseat him). The reason behind my love for him is simple: anytime he steps on the mound there is a feeling that something amazing could happen. He could strike out 20 or have a no-hitter; when that slider is working low in the zone and the fastball is darting to both sides of the plate, he is nearly impossible to hit. This was the issue this year, in my opinion; the slider was never working.
As a result of this development (or maybe it was the cause), Kazmir threw his slider only 9.6% of the time compared to his previous career low of 18.8%. He threw his fastball and changeup considerably more. His slider was his "out-pitch." He'd bury it when he was ahead in the count to induce strike-outs or weak grounders.
Since Kaz wasn't burying his slider he was a different pitcher. His K-rate was the lowest it had been since 2005, same with his BB-rate and K/BB rate. He set career highs (or lows I guess) in LD%, GB%, FB%, and HR/9. His GB/FB ratio dropped from 1.04 last year (which was about his career norm) to .63. All the poor peripherals resulted in his highest career FIP (4.37) and tRA (4.71). Looking at his peripherals is an astounding juxtaposition compared to his previous norms; he looks like a different pitcher.
All of Kazmir's struggles seemed to be tied to his slider: his best pitch. Without throwing it more, I doubt Kazmir will ever be as good or electrifying as he has been; but with rest this offseason ideally he will feel that he can rely on it once again.