Scott Kazmir, sidelined for over a month due to a strained right quad,
will make his return to the Rays rotation on Saturday against the
Marlins. But just how effective he will be is up for debate. The
25-year-old southpaw was awful in his first nine starts, compiling a
7.69 ERA and 35/29 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings. But the Rays were
encouraged enough after two rehab starts — where he allowed just one
run over 10 2/3 innings — to bring him back.
It doesn’t take many charts and graphs to tell you that something
has been off with Kazmir. Seeing his flyball rate increase to a
career-high 48.9% last season, at least he decided to incorporate his
slider again in 2009, but a noticeable drop in velocity (average of
80.4 MPH as opposed to 84.8 MPH in 2007) has made the pitch the
complete opposite of a weapon.
And it isn’t just his slider that has suffered. His fastball has
lost over 2 MPH from last season (from 91.8 to 89.7) and almost three
MPH from 2007 (92.4). It should come as no surprise that his strikeout
rate has decreased every year from 2007 (10.41 K/9) to it’s current
6.90. While control has always been an issue for Kazmir, it’s become an
even bigger one now that he can’t put batters away. He’s seen that
shoot up from 3.88 BB/9 in 2007 to 5.72 this season.
The Rays hope that Kazmir’s refined mechanics, namely an effort to shorten his stride, will net better results. We’ll see in just over an hour from now.