Scott Kazmir, Back From The Dead

Jamie Squire

Scott Kazmir was out of affiliated baseball last year, something no one would have believed five years earlier. With a second chance in Cleveland, the lefty has started to resurrect his career.

Almost every year, there's a pitcher who reappears on the big league scene after seemingly seeing their effective career end, if it ever started at all. Three years ago, it was R.A. Dickey, two years ago, it was Ryan Vogelsong and Bartolo Colon, and this year, Scott Kazmir looks to fit that mold. After going into a tailspin during the '09 season, he only lasted one start in 2011 before the Angels released him. Now in Cleveland, the 29(!)-year-old lefty has revitalized his career, though his ERA isn't showing that quite yet.

The easiest thing to spot in his return is the velocity. After barely being able to touch 90 in '11, he's getting it up to 95-96 right now. Never being a command pitcher, Kazmir needs the extra velocity to be successful. His two-seamer has been more effective than his four-seamer, largely due to his use of them. He has inverted the optimal use of the pitches, throwing 75% of his fastballs to lefties as four-seamers and 65% of his fastballs to righties as two-seamers. Since he's seen more RHB so far, the two-seamer has had more chances to be hit. If he would flip the use of them, he would have more chance of being successful.

Another problem so far with the fastballs is gopheritis. He's allowed two homers with each type, out of a total of 9 and 8 flyballs. This will not continue, which is a big reason why his xFIP stands at 3.34, compared to his 4.61 FIP. He has been able to get plenty of misses with the pitches so far, posting a 77% contact rate with the two-seamer and a 84% contact rate with the four-seamer. He doesn't get many groundballs with the two-seamer, as tail is its main weapon, showing nearly no sink.

Moving on to the offspeed pitches, his slider is still his main put-away pitch, his only secondary offering to lefties. In the low-80's, the pitch has decent depth, only allowing a 65% contact rate so far. However, when it is hit, it's been a base hit half the time. Once the .500 BABIP starts coming down, it will return as an effective pitch for him. His changeup has good fade and average depth, but it's a pitch he only uses on righties and usually early in the count. He'll also sprinkle in a first-pitch curveball to a righty.

Lefties haven't had much luck against him, striking out a-third of the time while only getting one extra-base hit. The problem for Kazmir is that he has faced 75% righties so far. He's been able to get over a fourth of them to K, but all five homers are responsible by RHB, so he has to make an adjustment there. His fastball usage is my best guess, though regression to the mean will probably be the best adjustment of anything. It was sad to see such a great, young arm fade away into oblivion, so Kazmir's return to the majors feels like a second chance to see a still-young pitcher return to a promising career, which the Indians would greatly appreciate.

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