Scouting report on Scott Kazmir

Starting the World Series for the Rays tonight is Scott Kazmir. He’s been ably covered already by our own Josh Kalk and by Harry Pavlidis at Cubs f/x, but I’ll throw in my two cents on his scouting report this morning with the biggest game of Kazmir’s life approaching tonight.

Scott Kazmir doesn’t have a lot of pitches or a lot of deception. What he does have is good stuff that is hard to hit, particularly for left-handed hitters. He has a little trouble keeping his off-speed stuff in the zone.

Kazmir’s main pitch is a four-seam fastball that averages 92 mph. Against left-handed hitters, he’s usually around the zone with the fastball (69 percent strikes) and he tends to throw the pitch up and away. He gets some swings and misses when he keeps the fastball up and away, but when it drifts back over the middle of the plate, lefties have a better time making contact. However, they don’t hit it with authority, mostly generating ground balls to both sides of the infield and weak fly balls to the opposite field. Kazmir allowed only one home run to a left-handed hitter all year, a 90-mph meatball over the heart of the plate that David Ortiz lined over the right field wall in the first inning of a 13-5 crushing by the Red Sox on September 15.

Against right-handed hitters, Kazmir works across the whole plate with the fastball but likes to keep the ball up. He gets quite a few swinging strikes when he keeps the fastball up, but he’s not in the zone as much (65 percent) as he is to lefties. Unlike lefthanders, righthanders have considerable success when putting the ball in play against Kazmir’s fastball. They are able to pull it toward right field, and fully seven percent of the balls in play off fastballs to righties end up as round-trippers. Surprisingly (to me at least), it’s not the fastballs at the top of the zone that end up flying out the most often. Rather, it’s when Kazmir puts the fastball over the plate but down and in that right-handed hitters are able to make contact for the most power. Of the fastballs put in play from this part of the zone, 27 percent go for home runs (six percent is average), while only three percent of fastballs put in play from other parts of the strike zone end up out of the park.

There is mention in the scouting literature that Kazmir has a two-seam fastball or cut fastball in addition to his four-seamer. There might be a few of those hiding in the data, but I don’t see any evidence that he uses either pitch with any frequency.

Against left-handed hitters, Kazmir uses the fastball 72 percent of the time. The other 28 percent of the time, he goes to his 82-mph slider, which he locates down and away off the corner. He gets a lot of swings and misses with this pitch, but he also misses the zone a lot (48 percent of the time) when the batter is able to lay off. When the slider is in the zone, lefthanders make contact fairly often, but weakly, managing to bat only .259 with no home runs when putting the ball in play.

Against right-handed hitters, Kazimr uses the fastball 75 percent of the time. Another 16 percent of hits pitches are 79-mph two-seam change-ups, which he likes to locate away from right-handed batsmen. He has trouble controlling the change-up, managing only 57 percent strikes. He gets a lot of swings and misses with the change when he keeps it down, but righthanders are able to turn on the pitch when he gets it inside, launching five home runs.

His other off-speed pitch against right-handed hitters is the slider, used only nine percent of the time. He usually aims it down and in and gets some whiffs this way, but he also misses the zone 46 percent of the time. When righties do put the ball in play, they hit .357 off the slider with a .786 slugging percentage. It’s a pitch without much margin for error for Kazmir. Just off the inside corner and he can get a swing and miss. Miss a few inches back over the plate and the hitter is likely to crush it; miss a few inches the other way and the hitter watches the umpire call it a ball.

Expect to see a lot of high heat from Scott Kazmir tonight against the Phillies. It will be interesting to see if he can dominate Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the Phillies’ big left-handed bats, while keeping the right-handed hitters like Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, and Shane Victorino from going deep.

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