Time for Kazmir to Ditch the Slider

January 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm 3 comments

Scott Kazmir AP Photo

Oh, how far Scott Kazmir has fallen from glory.

From 2005-2008 Kazmir averaged an ERA+ of 128, K/9 of 9.7, K/BB of 2.39, and HR/9 of 0.9 in 172 innings pitched per season.

From 2009-2010 Kazmir averaged an ERA+ of 78, K/9 of 6.4, K/BB of 1.51, and HR/9 of 1.2 in 149 innings pitched per season.

Kazmir has seen a yearly digression in fastball velocity (92.6 mph in 2005 to 90.5 mph in 2010), slider velocity (84.0 mph in 2006 to 80.9 mph in 2010), contact rate (73.9% in 2006 to 82.3% in 2010), swinging strikes (12.5% in 2006 to 7.4% in 2010), and FIP (3.36 in 2006 to 5.83 in 2010).

Kazmir has not had a season since 2005 in which his slider was even league average and he has also seen the value of his fastball and change-up drop to career lows in 2010. Not a single season has gone by in his career where he has learned a new pitch and Major League hitters know what is coming at them by now.

With his lack of command, especially over the past two seasons, Kazmir needs a pitch that hitters can chase. In order for his fastball to play up he needs another pitch so that hitters won’t sit all day waiting for the old number one. How about a curveball? Or a cutter? Or both?

Now, I have no clue if Kazmir can even learn to throw a curveball or cutter successfully, and due his poor command and control it may not be enough, but it is worth a shot.

One person who ditched the slider for the curveball was David Price. Now, it wasn’t a complete ditch but it was a reversal of roles. In 2009 Price posted a 4.42 ERA and 4.59 FIP while striking out 7.15 per 9 innings. He threw his slider 16.4% of the time at an average mph of 85.2 and his curveball 3.7% of the time. In 2010 he posted a 2.72 ERA and 3.42 FIP while striking out 8.11 per 9 innings. He threw his slider only 4.9% of the time and saw a 1.3 mph increase and threw his curveball 15.6% of the time. His slider went from below average in value (-8.5 wSL) in 2009 to above average (+1.7 wSL) in 2010.

Jon Lester is another example of a left-hander that ditched the slider (using it 15.9% of the time in 2006 and completely ditching it 2009) in favor of using the curveball more while adding a cutter to his repetoire in 2007. He has been a Cy Young contender in each of the past three seasons.

Price and Lester may not be the best examples due to the fact that they have better command than Kazmir but it is hard to overlook such an increase from one season to the next.

We may never see the same Kazmir that pitched from 2005-2008 due to injuries and lost velocity but if he plans on staying in the Major Leagues he needs to learn to become a pitcher. He has always pitched the same and what separates a pitcher from a thrower is his ability to learn new ways to get hitters out and ditch the pitches that are hurting him. Shortening a career due to injuries is one thing, and it leaves us wondering “what could have been.” Shortening a once promising career due to the inability to adapt as a pitcher in the Major Leagues is another thing and it leaves us wondering “what ever happened to that once promising pitcher.” Kazmir has yet to adapt and I hope he learns new pitches soon because I fear he may fall in the “what ever happened to” category.

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