Scott Kazmir Strikes Out Josh Hamilton

Previously, it was Oliver Perez. Earlier in his career, Oliver Perez was a good major-league pitcher. Then he was a worse major-league pitcher, then he was a bad major-league pitcher, then he was nothing, thought to be hopeless. Perez resurfaced in winter ball, allegedly reaching his old velocity levels as a reliever. The Mariners gave him a chance, and he worked his way into a big-league bullpen. Perez will be back in that bullpen in 2013, armed with a rich new contract, and just like that, Oliver Perez has been resurrected.

Now we have the case of Scott Kazmir. Earlier in his career, Kazmir was a good major-league pitcher. Then he was a worse major-league pitcher, then he was a bad major-league pitcher, then he was nothing, thought to be hopeless. Kazmir was awful the last time he pitched in affiliated ball, and he wasn’t particularly good with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters. Kazmir resurfaced in winter ball, allegedly reaching his old velocity levels as a starter. The Indians gave him a contract, and right now Kazmir is on his way to making the starting rotation out of camp.

Let’s be clear: it isn’t the greatest achievement to qualify for the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation. And Kazmir hasn’t even officially done that yet, nor has he done that and stuck around. But for one thing, Kazmir’s competing against decent options in Trevor Bauer, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carlos Carrasco, and others, and for another thing, this is Scott Kazmir. Consider what you would’ve thought about Kazmir, say, last November or so. Now tell yourself that guy could start the Indians’ fifth game of the season. And also tell yourself that this year’s Indians are trying to contend. For Kazmir, even being at this point is a hell of an achievement.

This post is going up now because Kazmir is fresh off four shutout innings against the Angels on Monday afternoon. That takes him to eight shutout innings of official Cactus League baseball, with a walk and eight strikeouts. Though Kazmir doesn’t have a job locked up quite yet, Monday’s outing surely boosted his case, and one figures Kazmir has the inside track. Right now, it’s probably his job to lose.

This post is also going up now because for the first time this spring, Kazmir was televised. We heard glowing reports on Kazmir’s stuff, from Indians officials and other scouts, but until Monday we didn’t have an opportunity to witness that stuff for ourselves. All we knew was that Kazmir was being gunned in the low 90s again over short outings. How does Scott Kazmir actually look? Not that any of us are extraordinary scouts, but following, we may observe Scott Kazmir striking out Josh Hamilton swinging.

Pitch 1

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Kazmir throws a fastball with a speed. It’s more or less right on the mark, and it’s taken for a strike by a guy who didn’t have much interest in swinging. Maybe the bigger story here is that Josh Hamilton saw a pitch and didn’t swing at it.

Pitch 2

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Kazmir throws a fastball with a speed. It badly misses the mark, high and tight, but Hamilton goes after it and fouls it off. Hamilton is well behind the pitch, which could speak to some deception on Kazmir’s part, or which could be a fluke.

Pitch 3

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Kazmir throws a fastball with a speed. It badly misses the mark and the catcher has to stand up, but Hamilton chases and Hamilton whiffs for strike three. Once again, it looks like Hamilton is behind the pitch, and if you’re going to miss 0-and-2, this isn’t a bad spot.

Now, these are just three pitches, taken from one plate appearance, against a left-handed hitter. From this plate appearance, we can’t really conclude anything, but this is also kind of Kazmir’s whole Monday outing in a nutshell. The overwhelming majority of Kazmir’s pitches were fastballs, and though we didn’t have radar gun readings, the Angels’ swings suggested Kazmir was probably around 90-92. The idea, I think, was to get Kazmir locating, but command wasn’t his strength this afternoon. Which, of course, you wouldn’t expect it to be — command has always been Kazmir’s weakness, even when he was effective. Though Kazmir issued just one walk, the Angels’ hitters were aggressive, and Kazmir missed a lot of targets.

He did throw some offspeed pitches. Some of them were bad.

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Some of them were good.

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It being so early in camp, still, some mechanical inconsistency is to be expected. But Kazmir pitched over the winter and he’s fighting for a job, so he should be approaching 100%. The pitcher who faced the Angels on Monday looked like he could be effective in the big leagues, but he didn’t exactly look like a rejuvenated ace.

Bear in mind, velocity is only a part of it. When Kazmir last belonged to a major-league organization, in 2011, he was working in the mid- to high-80s. But in 2010, he had his fastball in the low-90s, and he was not good. In 2009, he had his fastball in the low-90s, and he was also not good, albeit better. In 2010, Kazmir finished with a 145 FIP-. In 2009, he finished with a 101 FIP-, but a 109 xFIP-. The trouble was that, between 2008-2009, Kazmir lost a ton of his strikeouts without losing a ton of his walks. It’s not like Kazmir’s problems are solved by throwing 91 again.

But Kazmir did have promising numbers over the winter, and his numbers are promising so far in the spring. Last year, a third of all starts went to guys with an FIP- of 110 or higher. The reality of fifth starters is that they’re well below-average, and Kazmir, in 2009, was a capable fifth starter. If he can get back to that level, he can serve a purpose, even if he isn’t the Scott Kazmir of old, the guy who pitched like a dominant ace.

A danger of Scott Kazmir making a comeback is that whenever he looks all right, people will dream about when Kazmir was a borderline superstar. So people might end up disappointed if Kazmir tops out as a decent fourth or fifth starter. In truth, if Kazmir makes it back as a fourth or fifth starter, that would be amazing, and we’d have only ourselves to blame for potentially being unimpressed. Kazmir isn’t there yet, and Monday he didn’t have pinpoint command, but then, Scott Kazmir never had pinpoint command. He just needs to be good enough to get by, and he’s the closest to that that he’s been in a while.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

38 Responses to “Scott Kazmir Strikes Out Josh Hamilton”

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  1. Don Zimmer's jowl sweat says:

    That was an overly caffeinated swing.

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  2. commenter #1 says:

    2013 AL Cy Young award sleeper

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  3. Dave in GB says:

    According to Hamilton, his blue eyes are to blame. Everybody knows people with blue eyes can’t play in sunlight.

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  4. Preston says:

    If Scott Kazmir was an adequate fourth starter that would go a long way towards the Indians being a 2013 contender.

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  5. Ender says:

    Getting Hamilton to swing at bad pitches doesn’t not impress me. He is one of the worst hitters in baseball at hitting good pitchers too which I guess helps. He does all of his damage off of bad pitchers.

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  6. Bookbook says:

    Shades of Freddy Garcia.

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  7. Cus says:

    First pitch looks like a cutter or something other than a straight fastball. Arm speed is slower than pitch two. Kazmir just can’t sem to locate down. Ever.

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    • Stuck in a Slump says:

      Given the Indians OF situation, if Kazmir can manage to induce weak contact up in the zone, this could be a very good thing for him this year.

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  8. We were hoping (not exactly the same situation, but similar) in Cubbieville with Dontrelle Willis. Not sure if that is going to happen or not.

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  9. Khris says:

    The real question… Where would Kazmir start in the Rockies rotation?

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  10. Garrett says:

    Let’s talk when Victor Zambrano returns as a #5, THEN I’ll be impressed.

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  11. Hurtlockertwo says:

    When are we going to see the article on the attempted resurrection of Mark Prior?? Anyone want to place odds on his return to MLB??

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  12. JKB says:

    With Kazmir, the key will be his effectiveness with runners on base, esp. RISP. I watched a lot of his games with the Rays, and he has a tendency to go full counts, have a walk or two, etc… When he was successful he would get the Ks and GIDPs after going full count with runners on, when he was not successful he would give up hits and HRs after going full count with runners on. This is just from watching a lot of nail biters, not sure if the data backs up my observations or not.

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    • Buttface says:

      Kazmir hardly ever induced GIDPs

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    • Trotter76 says:

      Most pitchers are successful when they get outs (esp. K’s and double plays) with RISP, and unsuccessful when they give up hits and homers in those circumstances. That’s like saying pitchers have lower ERAs in shutouts than when they give up a lot of runs.

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  13. Kyle H says:

    Better Question: Does Hamilton strike out looking? It seems that if he is gonna go down, its with a furious hack. Kazmir striking him out looking would be on a whole other level

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    Okay …

    1. On pitches 2 and 3, the catcher’s target is LOW and AWAY and Kazmir missed UP and IN.

    2. Hamilton swings at ball 1 (pitch 2) and ball 2 (pitch 3).

    I’m guessing this has little to do with Kazmir and more to do with Hamilton.

    JH’s timing looks off, his front foot gets down early, then there’s hesitation, then a late swing.

    Kazmir threw 1 of 3 pitches near his target. The offspeed pitch that generated a swing in miss ended up centered.

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  15. CS Yankee says:

    So Kazmir K’d Josh without throwing a strike…ST is always about guys hitting .450 or pitching to a sub-1 ERA and being “wrongly” sent down.

    His name, rep, and throwing above 90 will likely make him a place come April but odds are that’ll he will walk the farm or be lit-up like a Christmas tree and be let go by June. Indians and Royals will duke it out for third-place is my guess as their starters overall are beyond weak.

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  16. MrMan says:

    Hope Angels fans enjoy watching Josh Hamilton disinterestedly watch strike one then flailing away at ball 1, 2 and 3. Hamiltons declining plate discipline is well documented. Add some age and the inevitable decline in bat speed and you’re looking at a guy unlikely to provide much value in years 3-4-5 of that $25M per year contract.

    Rangers got 22 fWAR out of Hamilton in 5 seasons at a cost of ~$27M. I bet Angels don’t get 15 WAR at a cost of $125M.

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  17. Bill says:

    I saw Kazmir pitch last year for the Skeeters in MD against the Blue Crabs in an independent league game. He got hit around pretty good in that game and was chased after a few innings. It would be interesting to see him make a miracle comeback.

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