Scott Kazmir is “in denial about his continuing struggles”

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Scott Kazmir has a 7.79 ERA this spring after pitching horribly last season, yet after every poor outing he talks about stuff like “throwing the ball well” and feeling “so much better.”

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes that Kazmir “is either one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball, as he seems to believe, or in denial about his continuing struggles.”

For instance, after getting knocked around for eight runs yesterday Kazmir said:

I feel like I was throwing the ball well. The walks, I didn’t particularly like, but I thought I was attacking the strike zone. A couple of things didn’t go my way, and it kind of snowballed on me. My slider felt great, and my fastball had a downward tilt to it. But they put some good swings on it. That’s baseball. No matter how you feel, you’ve got to have some luck on your side.

He’s right, of course, and plenty of pitchers suffer from some combination of bad luck and bad defensive support. The problem is, he isn’t one of them. Kazmir went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA last season and has a 5.17 ERA in 34 starts since joining the Angels via midseason trade with the Rays in 2009.  His xFIP during that time is 5.47, so there’s an argument to be made that he’s actually been lucky.

Once an overpowering strikeout pitcher with mid-90s velocity, Kazmir’s average fastball has dipped in miles per hour from 92.1 to 91.7 to 91.1 to 90.5 since 2007. In other words, he’s been awful since mid-2009 and has been hemorrhaging velocity on his fastball since 2007. And it sounds like he’s lost even more miles per hour, as DiGiovanna reports that he was clocked in the high-80s yesterday.

DiGiovanna speculates that the Angels may soon have no choice but to move free agent signing Hisanori Takahashi into the rotation and release Kazmir, but they’d clearly prefer to have Takahashi in the bullpen and cutting Kazmir would involve eating the $12 million he’s owed this season and $2.5 million buyout on his contract for 2012.

Or as manager Mike Scioscia put it:

Regardless of what options we have or don’t have, our goal is to get Kaz back pitching as effectively as he did at the end of 2009. That’s our focus now. We’ll see where this leads.

Losses, most likely.

Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson to table extension talks

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Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.

Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.

The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.

If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.