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Adjusting Scott Kazmir

December 16, 2010 BY ALEX EISENBERG 12 Comments

Watching film of Scott Kazmir, not a whole lot jumped out at me as for why he was suffering from velocity loss in 2010. I only noticed maybe one major difference in him mechanically, but it wasn’t something that seemed like it would make a big difference with his velocity. However, this wasn’t the first time Kazmir suffered from a sudden loss of velocity. There was a point in 2009 where his velocity lagged behind its normal self and he made the necessary adjustments to correct himself later in the year.

So when I went to look at the tape from 2009, I was surprised to see that the very same problem that afflicted him 2009 was afflicting him 2010, only this time he never made the necessary adjustments. Let me lay out the exact mechanical problem…

We have four clips below. Starting in the top left corner, you have Kazmir in 2009 throwing an 89 mph fastball. In the bottom left corner you have Kazmir in 2009 throwing a 94 mph fastball. In the top right corner is Kazmir in 2010 throwing an 88 mph fastball. In the bottom right corner is Kazmir in 2010 throwing a 95 mph fastball.



*Credit to MLB Advanced Media

So on the top row you have Kazmir throwing in the high 80′s and on the bottom row you have Kazmir throwing in the mid-90′s. Can you spot the big difference?

If you haven’t spotted it yet, check out the hands. First at the set up and then as the front leg is lifted. The hands start lower on the high velocity pitches and rise in unison with the leg and then drop in unison with the leg. On the lower velocity pitches, Kazmir’s hands start at around chest high and hover until the knee reaches its uppermost point. Once that occurs, the hands and leg drop together. This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but on second thought you can understand why it actually is an important difference.

By starting the hands lower and moving them in sync with the front leg, you are establishing a much better rhythm, a much better flow for your delivery, which is important for maximizing the effectiveness of one’s mechanics. Also, the hand movement is something that can build up energy. I liken it to a hitter giving the bat an extra wiggle before loading up…it’s almost like a jump start to the whole process.

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  • Another noticeable difference — maybe just as important as the extra hand movement — is the faster tempo. Tempo, which is the number of frames from the point in which a pitcher’s knee reaches its upper most point all the way to release — is often correlated with velocity. We see Kazmir has a higher leg kick on the higher velocity pitches. Since the clips are synchronized to release, the fact that Kazmir has the same release point despite a higher leg kick suggests that Kazmir’s body was moving at a faster rate when throwing his fastball in the mid-90′s. This difference is more noticeable in the 2009 versions, however.

    So heading into next season, I’d like to see Kazmir put that rhythm back into his delivery by starting his hands lower and moving them in sync with the lift and drop of his front leg. He did it once before. He can do it again.

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    12 Comments »

    • timber said:

      I never noticed before but wow, Garza really needs to firm up his glove. I don’t like the way he finishes with it practically behind his back.

    • Michael said:

      Wow. This is amazing. I have a special request for you to do one on someone who has been messsed up mechanically. That is BJ Upton. Something severe is wrong with his mechanics from 2007/2008–2009/2010. Can you find out what that is. A ton of people have wondered hwat this is, and you are an obvious expert on the matter.

    • Nathan said:

      This is fantastic, nice eye.

      I didn’t notice the hands at all.

      The first thing I noticed was actually his head at the release point. In the low velocity pitches he still seems to have his eye on the catcher’s mitt when he hits his release point.

      In the high velocity pitches his head is already turned to the ground at the release point, indicating–to me at least–that he has much more emphasis on a strong follow-through (using his back) in those pitches.

      He almost seems to be holding back in the low-velocity GIFs.

    • timber said:

      I have no clue why I said Garza above…clearly I meant Kazmir! Former teammates, I guess…

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      lol timber, I actually grabbed some video on Garza to see and I was about to say his front side mechanics are actually pretty good…the interesting thing with Garza is he’s much more firm on his fastball. When he throws something soft, the glove is less out in front of the chest and a little more to his side.

      As for Kazmir, his front side mechanics have always been a little inconsistent, but I think he’s OK. Once the ball is released, it doesn’t really matter what the glove arm does. It’s more a sign of the intent he’s throwing with that his glove arm acts the way it does after release.

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      Nathan, Kazmir is probably the second most requested player I’ve gotten over the past couple of years and I’ll be honest, I’ve looked at him multiple times before and didn’t spot the hand difference. Not sure how I spotted it this time around.

      As for the head, on the high velocity pitches, he really buries his head downward and finishes his pitches…it’s like an extra bit of oomph at the end. It’s a sign of an intent to throw hard, another important factor in velocity.

      I agree about the holding back part…you have to wonder how much confidence plays a role here. When you’re struggling, you’re more tentative. When your timing and rhythm is right, you tend to relax and let it fly.

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      Michael, if Kazmir is the second most requested player, Upton is easily the most requested. Like Kazmir, I’ve looked at Upton a few times and haven’t found anything. That said, I don’t think I’ve looked at much video of Upton in 2010, so I’ll revisit him and see what I can find.

    • Brian said:

      No mention of the higher leg kick in the higher-velocity ones? To me, it’s not the hands but that kick. After the leg kick differential, you can see that he’s further rotated in the high-velocity frames. To me, he’s clearly getting more torque out of his core in the high-velocity frames. Only question I would have is: What is the link between the difference in leg kick and the arm staying back allowing the torso to rotate a few more degrees before the arm comes through. To me, the hands aren’t as important as these other things. Thoughts? Thanks. brian

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      No, I mentioned it here:

      Another noticeable difference — maybe just as important as the extra hand movement — is the faster tempo. Tempo, which is the number of frames from the point in which a pitcher’s knee reaches its upper most point all the way to release — is often correlated with velocity. We see Kazmir has a higher leg kick on the higher velocity pitches. Since the clips are synchronized to release, the fact that Kazmir has the same release point despite a higher leg kick suggests that Kazmir’s body was moving at a faster rate when throwing his fastball in the mid-90′s. This difference is more noticeable in the 2009 versions, however.

      That said, I highlighted it mostly because it established a difference in tempo between the high velocity and low velocity versions. It’s hard for me to draw the link between the leg kick and velocity because the low velocity Angels version has a leg kick similar to both high velocity versions.

      I’m not sure what the link is between leg kick and the arm staying back because if a pitcher has a shorter leg kick, their arm action should be timed to match that shorter leg kick. If you have a shorter leg kick and you are having difficulty keeping your arm back, then you have to make an adjustment one way or another. You could make your leg kick higher, you could add a little turn to the hips before breaking your hands, which you could also adjust the timing on.

      I disagree about the hands though…I think the rhythm he’s establishing is very important. With that pre-breaking of the hands movement, he’s creating energy that gets transferred later in the delivery, energy that isn’t there should the hands remain static.

    • Brian said:

      You’re right! I did not read it carefully. I’m sorry I wasted your time. My apologies. brian

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      Believe me, you did not post a stupid comment. Any comment that encourages discussion is a good comment. I’d actually welcome similar comments by you and others in different articles if you have them.