The Decline of Scott Kazmir

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Scott Kazmir was signed to a two-year $22 million deal prior to the 2014, which led to the Oakland A’s letting the grande gamer Bartolo Colon sign with the New York Mets. Kazmir was a project-pitcher, after not pitching in 2012 due to injuries, Kaz pitched decently for the Cleveland Indians in 2013, going 158 innings and posting a 4.04 ERA. It was the most innings he had pitched since 2010 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Kazmir got off to a start that no one except maybe Billy Beane thought was possible, posting four victories in April, with two no-decisions which the A’s won as well. In his next nine starts, Kaz would earn five victories, two losses and two no-decisions (both Oakland victories again), and he would only pitch less than six innings in one contest, which he was ejected from after 1 1/3. Kaz was off to a tremendous 9-2 start, with a 2.08 ERA. Kaz would pitch his worst game of the season in his next start, allowing seven runs to the Mets. But, he’d get back to his winning ways before the first-half of the season ended, locking an all-star bid with his 11-3 record and 2.38 ERA. Heading into August Kaz was sitting pretty, with a 12-3 record and 2.37 ERA.

Sep 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (26) comes out of the game during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

After 21 starts Kaz’ worst allowances were games of seven runs, mentioned above, and four against the Seattle Mariners on May 5. His worst month through July, was June when he allowed 12 runs total in six starts, with one of those starts being his seven run slip-up.

Then came, what we can only describe as… the collapse.

But, in Aug., Kaz allowed 26, yes 26, runs total in six starts. good for a 7.80 ERA in the month (more than six runs more per contest than in July when his ERA for that month was 1.30). After turning the calendar to September, fans hoped that Kaz would re-gain the all-star calibur level he had pitched in the first half of the season, but so far, that’s all but disappeared. So far this month, Kaz has a 5.25 ERA and hasn’t obtained a win. It hasn’t helped that the A’s bats went cold in the last two months, but when you’re allowing six to seven runs a game, you aren’t going to get many victories.

So what’s been the main issue that’s led to the decline of Kazmir in the last two months?

It’s tough to say his arm is winding down, even though the innings pitched this season, 183 1/3, are the most he’s pitched since 2007, since his fastball velocity (FBv) has declined from 91.2 MPH in April-July to 90.8 in August and September (according to FanGraphs), but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think the wear and tear isn’t an issue. His fastball also isn’t striking out as many as it was. Dropping from 8.07 in the first four months to 7.17 in the last two (FG).

But, another drastic problem in the different months has been his batting average on balls in play. Through July, his BABIP was at .260 (commonly around .290-.310) and in the past two months, it has exploded to .349. So, technically, luck has been an effective factor in Kaz’ decline, with him being on both sides.

Another issue for Kaz, are his increase in walks. His BB/9 went from 2.09 in the first four months to 3.33 in the most recent two (FG), and that has led to an increase in runs, whether it be unearned or earned, as seen in August and September.

So what’s next for the struggling lefty?

Kaz has one more start in in the regular season, against the Texas Rangers tomorrow, and if he doesn’t have a turnaround performance, in my opinion, with the way Jason Hammel has been pitching, we’ll be seeing Kaz in the bullpen. If he can’t get back to the way he was from April until July, there’s little Kazmir can do for the A’s in the starter’s role. If Kaz has a decent start, I think we’ll see him as one of the four starters for the postseason, or maybe even a split start with Hammel potentially. And with one more year on his contract, I’m sure the A’s are truly hoping he can find his form once again and get back to the dominant pitcher he was the first half of the season.

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