After parts of three disastrous years in Los Angeles, Scott Kazmir was finally released.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher who wasn’t injured whose skills just evaporated as much as they did for Scott," Scioscia said. "He’d long-toss 240 feet, and you can’t be hurt and do that. Then he’d get on the mound and try to translate that energy into a pitch, and it wasn’t there."
The quote by current Angels manager Mike Scioscia pretty much sums it up.
Kazmir’s struggles have been well document since being traded by the Rays, but no one could have foreseen how fast his downfall has been. From nagging injuries, to inconsistencies in the strike zone, this former first-round pick will need someone to take a flyer on him to get him back where he once was.
When Kazmir burst on the scene with the Rays in 2004, everyone took notice, and he quickly became the Rays No. 1 guy, becoming a rock for a team desperate for success.
That all began to change when the Rays did finally accomplish their goal of reaching the playoffs. Looking back now, hindsight is 20/20. Back then you couldn’t imagine the struggles he would encounter after leaving the only team he has ever known.
From 2006 until 2008, Kazmir’s ERA steadily crept above 3.00. In today’s game, anything under 4.00 will get you a hefty sized contract.
And after spending part of the ’09 season with Tampa, all the warning signs unfortunately came to fruition; an ERA near 6.00, a career high in WHIP (1.541), a noticeable decrease in K/9, increase in BB/9 and a continued decrease in velocity.
He did turn some heads in LA going 2-2 and keeping his ERA under 2.00 in six starts. He was largely ineffective in his only playoff appearance with them which was obviously a lead-in to what 2010/2011 had in store.
I have been following Kazmir and his efforts to regain his old form for nearly two years now and what has always jumped out on the page was the reduced velocity which seemingly breaks down your other abilities.
Even since that first article, the reduction continues. “A once dominant fastball (93.7 mph) and slider (84.0 mph) have turned relatively common; 90.5 mph and 80.9 mph.” In 2011, a fastball that was consistently in the mid-90’s was now a pedestrian 86 mph.
Career worst’s in nearly all facets of his game were witnessed last year in one of the nastiest seasons in memory for any pitcher. Kazmir went 9-15, after allowing a career high in HR/9, BB/9 and career lows in K/9. He was also third in the AL with 12 hit batters.
When it gets that bad, the whole league is aware of your struggles; when you are around the plate they crush it, when you miss they lay off, your fastball and change-up are nearly identical when it crosses the plate and troubles around the strike zone up your pitch count.
The 2011 campaign did not start off any better.
“Kazmir’s performance against the Kansas City Royals leads us to believe that he is on a mighty short leash after giving up five runs in less than two innings. Making matters worse, his control issues have not subsided as evidenced with nearly half of his pitches thrown for balls (63-35).”
If things couldn’t get any worse, his assignment to the Angels’ triple-A affiliate was the final death knell for his comeback: 0-5, 17.02 ERA, 15.1 IP, 22 hits, 20 BB, 14 K, .355 BA
At 27, a career can’t be finished. There has to be some gas left in the tank, there has to be. Maybe this is exactly what Kazmir needs at this point in his career. Wipe your hands clean and start over.
This will not be the last time we will hear from this southpaw whose slider, when on, is pure filth. For someone who has self-destructed on live television and comes back for more will not allow this to get in the way.
Scott Kazmir obviously has the heart of champion, a true competitor that, as he has shown, will face adversity head-on and do everything in his power to turn it around.
Baseball is a funny game, and we all like underdogs! You just never know.
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective