With most of the focus on what the Angels haven’t done to upgrade their offense this off season, little has been mentioned about what should be the core strength of the 2011 Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim… their starting pitching.
Jered Weaver and Dan Haren give the Halos a formidable 1-2 punch. When you follow that up with Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro, Mike Scioscia should feel confident that the club will “have a chance to win” ( as he loves to say) almost every day of the week. But what about the 5th guy? Scott Kazmir was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball last season (9-15 , 5.94 ERA. , .271 opponents batting average!). For Kazmir, 2010 culminated a rapid fall from grace that would make even Whitney Houston say, “damn!”
The question remains… what will it take for Kazmir to get right? Can he be saved? A recent article examined some of the flaws in Kazmir’s delivery that could help to pin point how we can see some sort of a resurrection in Kazmir. Lets take a look.
In an article I found called, “Adjusting Scott Kazmir”, Alex Eisenberg notes that Kazmir’s velocity noticeably dips (which makes him much more hittable) when his hands start at a higher level than his 94 – 95 MPH delivery whereby he starts his hands lower and brings them up in unison with his leg to create a fluid faster motion. That motion gives him more velocity. Also of note is that, on higher velocity pitches, Kazmir also has a higher leg kick which, for him not being a big guy, is also key to generate power and velocity. One final thing to observe in the video is that the higher leg kick also results in a higher finish with Kazmir’s back leg, which also demonstrates him “finishing his pitches ” better.
So what does this all mean? For one, I’m sure the Angels and Mike Butcher are more aware of this. Remember, Butcher was with the Rays when Kazmir was a young pitcher, so you would think Butch knows the characteristics of Kazmir’s best delivery better than almost anyone. Secondly, if Kazmir can find a consistent delivery and release point, his velocity issues will be solved which, in turn, will make his change-up more effective.
Ultimately, as I see it, finding control of his slider is the key to Kazmir regaining any sort of rotation relevance. Without an effective slider, Kazmir is basically a two-tool pitcher (fast ball and change-up) who should only be suited for short situational relief work.
How will 2011 shake out?
The best case scenario is, if Kazmir can find his slider command and develop a consistent delivery to produce velocity, we could see a slight return to his old form. Worst case? If Kazmir can’t return to form as was in his days as a Ray, he could be released by the Angels. The most probable and likely case that I see is the two options meeting somewhere in the middle. I don’t expect Kazmir to be as bad as the 2010 version. Actually, it would be really hard to duplicate such awfulness. I expect that, at times this season, Kazmir will exhibit good velocity and command of the slider and pitch well. However, in other games, he will be lit up.
All things considered, you can’t always expect greatness from a 5th starter. Expect the unexpected. If Kazmir can do something he’ s never really done (go deep into games, I like him in this role. If he can’t, Trevor Bell should get a look in filling out the back end of what should be a strong starting unit.