Kazmir with the Cleveland Indians
Oakland Athletics – No. 26
January 24, 1984 |
|August 23, 2004 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
(through 2014 season)
|Earned run average||4.07|
Career highlights and awards
Scott Edward Kazmir (Slovak: Kažmír, born January 24, 1984) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball. After a stellar high school career in his hometown of Houston, Texas, Kazmir was drafted in the first round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Mets, who later sent him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a highly publicized and criticized trade. Kazmir made his major league debut with the Devil Rays on August 23, 2004, when he was only 20 years old. Despite his age, Kazmir quickly became one of the better lefthanded starting pitchers in baseball, primarily by relying on a mid-90s fastball paired with a sharp breaking slider. Over the next several years, Kazmir was one of the few bright spots on Devil Rays teams that lost 90+ games per season. He is still among the all-time leaders in many franchise pitching categories, including strikeouts, earned run average (ERA), wins, and games started.
Nagging injuries lead to inconsistency in Kazmir's pitching motion and gradually reduced his pitch velocity and overall effectiveness beginning in 2008. The Rays traded Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in August 2009, where he performed well for a time. However, his effectiveness deteriorated during the 2010 season, when he posted the highest ERA among American League starting pitchers. Continued poor performances during spring training in 2011 led the Angels to send Kazmir to the minor leagues to retool his mechanics and regain his confidence, but continued ineffectiveness there led to his release in June 2011.
After months of individual work and short stints with independent minor league and winter league teams in 2012 and 2013, Kazmir signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians before the 2013 season. Solid performances in spring training earned him a spot in the Indians' starting rotation, and he pitched well enough during the 2013 season to come in third in the voting for American League Comeback Player of the Year. In December 2013, Kazmir signed a two-year contract with the Oakland Athletics and continued his resurgence by winning a career-high 15 games during the 2014 season.
- 1 High school career
- 2 Professional career
- 2.1 Minor Leagues and trade to Tampa Bay
- 2.2 Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays
- 2.3 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- 2.4 Sugar Land Skeeters and Gigantes de Carolina
- 2.5 Cleveland Indians
- 2.6 Oakland Athletics
- 3 Scouting report
- 4 Awards and accomplishments
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
High school career
At Cypress Falls High School, Kazmir was a two-sport athlete, through his sophomore year, pitching on the baseball team and starting at quarterback on the JV football team. During one stretch on the prep baseball diamond, Kazmir threw four straight no-hitters. As a senior, he struck out 172 batters in 75 innings and had an ERA of 0.37.
Kazmir was highly recruited in both sports and verbally committed to the home state Texas Longhorns. However, Kazmir was drafted in the first round (15th overall) of the 2002 MLB Draft by the New York Mets and signed on to play professional baseball. Along with teammate Clint Everts (who was selected 5th overall by the Montreal Expos), he became half of the first pair of high school pitchers from the same team drafted in the first round.
Minor Leagues and trade to Tampa Bay
Kazmir quickly advanced through the lower level of the Mets' minor league system and was promoted to the Double-A Binghamton Mets on July 10, 2004 during his second full season of pro baseball. On July 30, he was traded along with minor league pitcher Joselo Díaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for veteran starting pitcher Víctor Zambrano and minor league reliever Bartolomé Fortunato. This trade continues to be widely criticized by the New York media and fan base given Kazmir's subsequent success and Zambrano's lack thereof.
The Devil Rays sent Kazmir to their Double-A affiliate in Montgomery, where he started four games, throwing 25 innings and allowing 14 hits while striking out 24. In late August, Tampa Bay called him up to the major leagues, bypassing the Triple-A level altogether.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays
Kazmir made his major-league debut on August 23, 2004, pitching five shutout innings against the Seattle Mariners. He had a 2–3 record and an ERA of 5.67 in 8 appearances (7 starts) in 2004, but he was clearly making strides in his development; he struck out 11.07 batters per nine innings. On September 9, Kazmir made his only relief appearance with the Rays, allowing one run in three innings against the Yankees.
Kazmir started the 2006 season opener April 3 at Baltimore. At 22 years, 2 months and 10 days Kazmir was the youngest opening day starter since Dwight Gooden with the Mets in 1986. He lost the decision after 6 ER in 4 IP, but was subsequently extremely impressive with an overall 10–8 record with 163 strikeouts and a 3.24 ERA in 144.2 innings pitched. Kazmir has won decisions against Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, two-time 20 game winner Jamie Moyer, two-time All Star and 20 game winner Dontrelle Willis, 2001 World Series MVP and 3-time 20 game winner Curt Schilling, 2003 World Series MVP Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield, who is 14–2 lifetime against the Rays.
On June 22, 2006 Scott Kazmir passed Sandy Koufax and put himself in the 22nd spot in MLB history for most strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher before his 23rd birthday. He also picked up his team leading ninth victory in the process.
On July 2, 2006, Kazmir was elected by the players to appear in the 2006 MLB All-Star Game, his first all-star appearance. The next day, he threw his first (and thus far only) complete game shutout, blanking the Boston Red Sox in Tropicana Field on 2 hits while striking out 10.
On August 22, 2006, Kazmir struck out eight Texas Rangers, becoming the all-time Rays strikeout leader.
2007 is generally considered to be Kazmir's best year. He led the AL in strikeouts (239) and games started (34) and also set career highs in wins (13 on a Devil Rays team that won only 64 games), innings pitched (206.2), and WAR (5.8).
Kazmir was one of the MLB's most unhittable pitchers in 2007, with hitters only making contact 74.5% of the time, the fourth best in the league. In their year-end review, Baseball Prospectus proclaimed, "Health permitting, he`s one of the best pitchers in the AL."
It was also during this time that Tampa Bay fans began crowning Kazmir with the nickname "Pizza Man" which was a reference to a longstanding promotion at Tropicana Field where if the Rays pitching staff combined for 10 strikeouts during a game, attendees of the game could trade in their ticket stub for a free pizza at participating Papa John's restaurants. The inference was that when Kazmir was pitching, there was a much higher chance of a free pizza for fans.
Kazmir strained his elbow at the beginning of Spring Training in 2008. While the injury was not considered serious at the time, the Rays were cautious with their star pitcher. His recovery and belated season preparation delayed his first start until May 4, when he faced the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.
After a "rocky" season debut, Kazmir had perhaps the best month of his career in May. He set a team record for wins in a month, going 5-1 with a 1.22 ERA and not allowed more than 1 run or 4 hits in a game after his first start. For his efforts, he was named the AL pitcher of the month, the first Rays player to win the honor.
Kazmir was named to the American League squad for the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. Though the Rays' management preferred that Kazmir rest his arm and not pitch in the mid-summer classic if at all possible, the game ended up being the longest ever and Kazmir stepped to the mound in the 15th inning. He threw a scoreless frame and the AL all-stars scored the winning run in the bottom of the 15th, making Kazmir the winning pitcher.
Kazmir was less effective over the second half of the season, posting a 5-3 record and 4.02 ERA as the Rays won their first American League East championship. In the postseason, Kazmir made 5 starts and went 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA as the Rays won their first AL pennant. But in what was a continuing trend, he could never work very deep into a ballgame, averaging just 5 innings while throwing over 100 pitches per start in the playoffs.
Kazmir averaged 4.28 pitches per plate appearance on the season, the highest rate in the majors. "He's an ace as far as his numbers go," Baseball Prospectus wrote, "But he doesn't do many of the other things one expects from an ace. He regularly misses time here and there (in 2008 it was an early-season elbow strain), he's so inefficient that he often hits 100 pitches before he's made it to the fifth inning, and he can become a scheduled strain on the bullpen. Don't get us wrong, he's great, and clearly worth the nearly $40 million he'll receive over the next four years, but he's far from deserving of the "ace" designation."
During the season, the Rays and Kazmir agreed on a four-year contract extension which guaranteed the lefty $28.5 million and had a maximum value of approximately $39.5 million if the team picked up his option for the 2012 season.
Kazmir again started the 2009 season on the disabled list with elbow issues and was activated on April 8. He accrued a 4–4 record with an ERA of 7.69 before going on the disabled list again on May 23 to rest a leg strain and to work on problems with his pitching mechanics. He returned on June 27 and went on to have a record of 8–7 with an ERA of 5.92 and 91 strikeouts as of August 28, 2009.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Rest of the 2009 season
Scott Kazmir made his home debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 8, 2009 once again pitching against the Seattle Mariners, going seven innings and giving up only one run in a no-decision. Kazmir continued to pitch well for his new team during the remaining month of the regular season, posting a 2-2 record with a 1.73 ERA. However, he fared less well in the postseason, going 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts and one appearance in relief.
In Spring Training 2010, Kazmir noted that he was not in best shape in the 2009 season. "I'd get nine or 10 pitches into an inning, and I didn't have the explosiveness I wanted," Kazmir said. "I was falling off pitches and stuff like that. At one point, you kind of wonder."
In the offseason, Kazmir focused on strength and flexibility training to reduce strain on his arm. Manager Mike Scioscia said, "He'll be in the right arm slot more often instead of dropping down to compensate or flying open," Scioscia said. "It's all connected. With a more consistent delivery, he'll minimize risk to his arm, because it's not doing more work than it has to.".
Despite this winter regimen, Kazmir began the season on the disabled list with hamstring and shoulder issues. He made his first start on April 15, a loss to the Yankees. His struggles continued throughout the first half of the season, as he posted the worst ERA among starters in the AL (6.92) along with a 7-9 record. Quoted in the Los Angeles Times in July, Kazmir said "It kind of feels like I'm thinking too much about where I'm throwing the ball and things start snowballing, and the next thing you know you don't really know what's going on."
On July 18, he was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder fatigue.
Kazmir returned in August to mixed results. He finished the season with a 9–15 record in 28 starts, and his 5.94 ERA was the highest in MLB among pitchers who worked 140 or more innings.
Kazmir struggled again in spring training, giving up 19 runs in 23+ innings, and was touched for 5 runs in 2+ innings in his first regular season start. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Kazmir's struggles were "baffling" and that, despite a rigorous off-season training regimen, the former all-star pitcher had neither velocity nor command. Kazmir was placed on the DL and sent to extended spring training to "sort things out".
After working on his mechanics for a month, Kazmir was sent to the Salt Lake Bees, the Angels' Triple-A affiliate, for a series of rehabilitation starts as he tried to work his way back to the major leagues, possibly as a relief pitcher. However, his struggles only grew worse in the minors. Kazmir had a 17.02 ERA in 5 starts, walking 20 and striking out 14 in 15+ innings. He was released by the Angels on June 15 despite having $14.5 million remaining on his guaranteed contract.
In December 2011, Kazmir tried to start a comeback by pitching winter ball for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican League. His only start did not go well, as he gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and 4 earned runs in one third of an inning.
Sugar Land Skeeters and Gigantes de Carolina
Kazmir continued to work out and held bullpen sessions for scouts from several major league teams over the winter and spring of 2012. However, he did not sign with a major league organization.
On July 7, 2012, Kazmir signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, who play near his hometown of Houston. Kazmir started 14 games for the Skeeters and finished the season with a 3-6 record and a 5.34 ERA.
In November 2012, Kazmir signed with Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. While he posted a 4.37 ERA, he struck out 27 batters in 23 innings and his fastball velocity was reported to be back in the 94-95 MPH range.
Kazmir signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians on December 21, 2012 and received an invitation to spring training. After pitching well during the spring, he was named the team's 5th starter heading into the regular season. On May 4, 2013 against the Minnesota Twins, Kazmir won his first major league game since 2010. In his next start he fanned 10 Oakland batters without issuing a walk over six innings of one-run ball to win his second consecutive start. It was the first time winning back-to-back starts since his 2010 season.
While not consistently regaining his former velocity, Kazmir's ability to better command his pitches helped him to have a season that saw him come in third in the voting for the 2013 American League Comeback Player of the Year Kazmir started 29 games (his most since 2007), posted a 10-9 record (most wins since 2009), and had a career-best strikeout to walk ratio of 3.45.
After his resurgent season in Cleveland, Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Oakland Athletics on December 3, 2013. Kazmir pitched 190 innings for the A's, the second highest total of his career, and finished the season with a 3.55 ERA and a 15 wins, a career high. Although his strikeouts per 9 innings rate dropped from 2013 (9.2 to 7.8), Kazmir posted a career best walks/hits per 9 inning rate (1.161) and was consistently effective until August, as his ERA rose over a full run from July until the end of the season. Kazmir was named to the 2014 AL All-Star team, his third appearance in the game and first since 2008.
When Kazmir was enjoying success during his first several seasons, his best pitches were a four-seam fastball and a slider. His fastball was regularly clocked in the mid to high 90s with excellent command, and his preferred strike-out pitch was his slider, which many scouts and other observers compared to that of Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. On the advice of teammate James Shields, he added a change-up, which also became an out pitch.
Repeated injuries followed by repeated attempts to tweak his mechanics and throwing motion saw Kazmir's entire repertoire dwindle in effectiveness. His fastball velocity dropped until topping out in the mid-80s in 2011, and he "lost his feel" for the slider, using it only sporadically and with poor results after his early 2008 stint on the disabled list.
In 2013, Kazmir returned to the major leagues with a modified slider that was thrown with less velocity than his pre-injury pitch, registering in the mid-80s. His fastball velocity improved to the low to mid-90s with a mix of four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Kazmir continued to throw a change-up in the low 80s and an occasional curve ball.
Awards and accomplishments
- 3x Major League Baseball All-Star (2006, 2008, 2014)
- AL Pitcher of the Month (May 2008)
- 2x AL Player of the Week (May 21, 2006, September 16, 2007)
- American League Strikeout leader (2007)
- Baseball America High School Player of the Year (2002)
- Member of the United States Junior Olympic baseball team (2001)
- Set a single-season record for strikeouts by high school pitchers in Texas with 175 for Cypress Falls High School (breaking the previous record of 172, set by Josh Beckett)
- Threw four consecutive no-hitters as a high school junior. While going for his fifth consecutive no-hitter he gave up a hit with two out in the seventh inning. After this, he finished the game, and subsequently pitched two more consecutive no-hitters.
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