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Entries in Scott Kazmir (2)

Tuesday
May142013

Found: Scott Kazmir's Fastball

Last year, Scott Kazmir was nearly booted from the Sugar Land Skeeters' starting rotation -- you know, the Atlantic League team that 50-year-old Roger Clemens rolled off the couch to pitch for last summer. Kazmir, a lefty whose searing fastball racked up over a strikeout per inning and a 3.83 ERA during his Tampa Bay days, barely bested the AARP-eligible Rocket on the radar gun while getting hammered for a 5.34 ERA with the Skeeters. At age 28, his baseball epitaph appeared written.

Instead, Kazmir has seemingly been reborn in Cleveland.

His ERA (4.87) isn't sparkling, but he has punched out 25 batters in 20.1 innings pitched (11.1 K/9) so far, giving him one of the ten best K rates among starting pitchers who have tossed 20+ frames. Kazmir has reclaimed his career by throwing heat not seen since he left Tampa.

Here's more on Kazmir's fastball:

  • Kazmir is throwing his fastball at an average of 91.6 MPH in 2013, a tick faster than in 2010, and nearly six MPH faster than during the one appearance he made in 2011 before the Angels cut him loose. He has maxed out at 95.5 MPH, his best top-level velocity since he was a Ray -- and an All-Star-- in 2008 (95.7 MPH).
  • He's not afraid to challenge hitters high in the zone with his souped-up fastball. Kazmir has thrown 41% of his fastballs in the upper-third of the strike zone, well above the 34% average for MLB starters.
  • Opponents have swung at missed at Kazmir's fastball 24% of the time this season, compared to about 17% from 2009-11. The last time Kazmir's gas got so many whiffs was 2008 (also 24%). Kazmir has the sixth-highest fastball miss rate among starters in 2013 (minimum 200 thrown):

Highest fastball miss rate among SP, 2013

Wednesday
Feb152012

Have You Seen Kazmir's Ks?

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, free agent Scott Kazmir is expected to audition in front of scouts in Houston today. Kazmir, still just 28, was once a fireballing lefty whose very name made Mets fans all twitchy. He struck out well over a batter per inning and posted a 114 ERA+ in six seasons with the Tampa Bay (then Devil) Rays following an infamous July 2004 trade that netted the Amazin's Victor Zambrano.

But Kazmir was swapped to the Angels late in 2009 and promptly fell apart, managing a 77 ERA+ in 188 innings with L.A. before the club gave him the boot last June. Never a picture of perfect health (he missed time with shoulder, elbow and quadriceps injuries while with Tampa), Kazmir was sidelined by hamstring, shoulder and back problems with the Halos.

All of those injuries seemed to take a serious toll on Kazmir's stuff. His fastball averaged 91.8 mph in 2008, 90.7 mph in 2009, 90.5 mph in 2010 and a Moyer-esque 86 mph in his one abbreviated MLB start last season. Without the heat, Kazmir's strikeout percentage nosedived: 26% of batters faced in 2008, 18.1% in 2009 and 13.6% in 2010. He didn't whiff a single one of the 14 hitters he faced in 2011.

When he still had some zip in 2008, Kazmir was able to make hitters miss in the upper portion of the strike zone. Check out his opponent contact rate by pitch location in 2008, and then the league average:

Kazmir's opponent contact rate by pitch location, 2008 Average opponent contact rate by pitch location

Hitters missed 28% of Kazmir's pitches thrown high in the strike zone in 2008, the third-highest rate among starting pitchers that year. Starting in 2009, however, a diminished Kazmir could no longer throw the ball by batters:

Kazmir's opponent contact rate by pitch location, 2009-11

Kazmir's miss rate on high pitches fell to slightly under 22%. And that extra contact on high pitches was hard: hitters slugged just .279 versus Kazmir's high pitches in 2008, but .415 from 2009-11 (the league average for starters over that time frame was about .400).

Kazmir was worked fairly hard at a young age by contemporary standards (537.1 innings from age 21-23, eighth-highest among that age group over the past decade), and it just seemed as though his 6-foot, 195 pound frame couldn't take the pounding required to be a workhorse starter. Perhaps with a year to heal his body, Kazmir can show some of the zip that made him a top young pitcher in Tampa. As an extreme fly ball pitcher with decidedly un-Moyer-like control, he has no other option.