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Better know a pitcher: Scott Kazmir edition

There is a bit of history from earlier this season.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kazmir is a comeback story. Throwing for the early, bad version of the Rays and the later, better version of the Rays, Kazmir spent his early years with an ERA in the mid-3s. His fWAR ranged from 2 to 4.8 in his formative time with the Rays. During the 2009 season, he was traded to the Angels and spent 2010 being terrible there. Perhaps nothing better explains his decline and prolonged absence more than a velocity chart.

kazmir velocity

Kazmir resurfaced with the Indians in 2013 and did well; he signed a two-year contract with the A's after 2013. We know how their season ended last year. Kazmir was traded to the Astros at the trade deadline this year, and quite frankly he hasn't been good with them.

Athletics 2.38 3.16 3.65
Astros 4.17 5.19 4.86

I think there are two reasons for this, one potentially causing the other. One, his velocity has steadily declined through the year. Two, he's given up a lot of dingers with the Astros. Looking back at his August and September starts, which total 11 starts and 58.2 innings, there were only two starts in which he did not give up a homer. His strikeout rate (K/9) looks worse as the season has gone on as well, though that decline is mostly in September. There's a chance Kazmir has simply gotten tired; his velocity similarly declined near the end of last season.

So that sets the stage. What does Kazmir actually do on the mound? Well, being a lefty with an "interesting" history, he throws a bunch of junk. A four-seam fastball, a sinker, a changeup, a slider, a curveball, and a cutter according to Brooks Baseball are what batters will see.

Against lefties, Kazmir abandons the curveball and changeup. He's not afraid to throw the four seamer and the cutter in any count, but he favors the slider over the sinker when he is ahead in the count.

Against righties, Kazmir rarely throws the slider and the curveball. Again, he's not afraid to throw the four seamer and the cutter in any count. He relies more on the sinker early and when the batter is ahead, and he relies more on his changeup when he is ahead in the count.

The dude is pretty predictable. You'll see more hard stuff early, and less hard stuff later in the count. He stays almost exclusively low and away to both righties and lefties. He gets by through deception. There's very little release point variation between his pitches.

His best pitch, by overall whiff rate, is his changeup. However, that might be changing for him. The whiff rate of his changeup has steadily declined through the season. The velocity on his changeup has dropped about two miles per hour since the season began, but it wasn't very high to begin with (78.2mph in April). His slider is his second-best pitch by whiff rate, but he barely throws that to righties. If his changeup is not neutralizing righties well, the Royals should stack the lineup with as many righties as allowable.

Overall, it seems like Kazmir has lived and died by his fastball velocity. When he's got velocity, he's an above-average pitcher. When he's lost velocity, he's a train wreck. He throws his harder stuff early in the count, and he throws his junk later in the count.

He sounds like a relatively average pitcher. The Royals can beat average pitchers. Then again, they've faced Kazmir three times this season. Kazmir's overall line:

21.1 IP, 16 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 14 K, 0 HR. That's not great for the Royals. The last start though came on 7/24 before Kazmir's decline. With the addition of Ben Zobrist, the Royals are not quite the same team who faced Kazmir last time. Kazmir doesn't seem to be quite the same guy either.