Uh-oh. Dave Cameron's got some bad news for the Rays: Scott Kazmir is broken ...
- [H]is velocity is off by a couple MPH this year on all pitches, not just his fastball. He's throwing a bunch of sliders again, but they're of the 80 MPH variety, not the 84 MPH power slider that he used to throw.
Those missing MPH are having a pretty big impact. Batters are making contact with 84% of the pitches Kazmir throws this year, way up from his 75% career average. In turn, his strikeouts are down, but he hasn't been able to offset the loss of dominance with a corresponding improvement in his walk rate. His 4.91 BB/9 is the highest he's posted since his rookie season.
Not surprisingly, this version of broken Kazmir isn't very good. His FIP is 4.78 and last night's beating pushed his ERA to 6.00. The Rays have David Price waiting in Triple-A, and with Kazmir looking like he needs a stint on the disabled list and an MRI, they might not be able to keep him down on the farm much longer. This Rays team needs a boost, and until they figure out what's wrong with Kazmir, it doesn't look like they'll be getting it from his spot in the rotation.
This news can't be news to the Rays' front office, as they're paying good money to smart people who are looking at the same stats and Pitchf/x data that Cameron's looking at. But they've got $28.5 million committed to Kazmir and it's hard to give up on $28.5 million.
Also, Price isn't exactly demanding a return to the Show. In 21 innings with Durham, he's given up four homers and 11 walks. Wade Davis, another of the Rays' top prospects, has walked 14 in 23 innings. Both of those guys have been outpitched by Mitch Talbot, who doesn't have great stuff but does usually throw strikes.
Anyway, Cameron's essentially right. If there really is something wrong with Kazmir -- something that's keeping him from throwing his pitches like he used to -- the Rays do have options, all who could probably do better than Kazmir's 6.00 ERA.