Scott Kazmir is back and looking for redemption after a disastrous 2010 season. Will he be able to revive his career or find himself in the unemployment line before the All-Star break?
2010 Stats: 150 IP, 9-15, 5.94 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 93 K
2011 ZiPS Projections: 154.1 IP, 9-12, 5.07 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 123 K
2011 Bill James Projections: 162 IP, 8-10, 4.22 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 151 K
2011 Marcel Projections: 150 IP, 10-11, 4.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 115 K
2011 MWaH Projections*: 34 IP, 1-5, 6.20 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 18 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2010 in Review: To put it bluntly, nothing went right for Scott Kazmir in 2010. His already declining velocity continued to drop and his already spotty command got even worse. He psyched himself out of attacking hitters or throwing his once devastating slider. His K/9 rate was a career low (5.58) and not even remotely close to his career average. His BB/9 (4.74) spiked to its highest level since his rookie season. At one point, his season was going so poorly the Angels made up a fake injury to his shoulder (or was it his elbow? Whatever, it was a fake injury either way) so that they could pull him from the rotation without totally embarrassing him. So, um, yeah, it was not a year Kazmir will remember fondly and a year I won't remember at all because the only way I could make it through one of his starts was by drinking until I blacked out. The season wasn't a total loss though as Kaz did manage to get his ERA just barely under 6.00 after he returned from his fake injury.
Three Lingering Questions for 2011:
- Is there any hope for Kazmir? There is always hope but considering how bad he was last year, it is hard to have a positive outlook on Kazmir. He did work hard this off-season to refine his mechanics and improve his conditioning, but the results in Spring Training haven't been very encouraging. If you want to try and go with a "glass half-full" outlook on Kazmir, then focus on the fact that he is still just 27 years old. Sooooo, he's got that going for him.
- Are Scott's problems mental, physical or both? The answer is definitely both, but I am not sure which is the biggest culprit in his untimely demise. Kaz used to throw in the mid-nineties, but now we are supposed to be excited that he touched 89 MPH on the radar gun while getting bombed by minor leaguers in Spring Training. That being said, it doesn't appear that he has any lingering health issues that need to be addressed, merely that old injuries have sapped some of the power in his arm. But maybe those injuries also jacked up his mechanics so that he can no longer throw his old awesome slider. Or maybe the loss of velocity is messing with his head, not his delivery, and he no longer trusts his stuff, which is why he nibbles at the outside corner and seems terrified to throw that slider.
- How long a leash will he be on this year? Kazmir is undoubtedly in his last season as an Angel, but will that season end prematurely? If he is as bad as he was last season, the Angels pretty much have to give up on him and cut him loose, don't they? I mean, if he can't get himself right after a year-plus of searching for answers, then it just isn't going to happen. The only thing that could save Kazmir though is the stark lack of decent replacement options for his spot in the rotation. Or he could just actually pitch at a decent level, but I've never been one to indulge in wild fantasies.
What to Expect in 2011: You know, I planned on trying to write this preview in a somewhat unbiased manner, but that didn't really happen, so let's just cut through the foreplay and skip straight to my big predictions for Kaz. SPOILER ALERT! I think Kazmir gets DFA'd by the end of May.
I probably criticize Kazmir more than anyone, which I kind of feel bad about (EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, no I don't), but I really do want to be wrong here, I just can't find any credible evidence to make me want to change my mind. There is a precedent for pitchers, especially pitchers who are as young as Kazmir, bouncing back from such a horrid season, but Kazmir has done nothing this spring to prove that he is going to be one of those guys. He has had outings where his velocity actually fell into the low-to-mid-eighties and he has shown no noticeable improvement in his command. Maybe he is just struggling because he is working on delivery mechanics and mental approach, but he is really running out of time to make progress.
Honestly, I think his ability to rebound hinges entirely on his slider. Yes, I know I keep harping on that one pitch, but it is so important to Kazmir. His fastball has lost its zip and never had a lot of movement to begin with while his changeup has never been anything but average (at best). He needs to have just one pitch that is above average, not even good, just better than average and the slider is his only change at that. There is a possibility that could happen since the coaches and Kazmir himself have had nice things to say about the slider this spring. If those comments are actually the truth and not just propaganda, then Kazmir just needs to find the courage to actually throw it more than eight times per game.
Will that happen? I doubt it, which is why I think the Halos hand him his walking papers before the end of May and he winds up groveling at the feet of Dave Duncan in St. Louis in a last-ditch effort to salvage his career.