Adjusting Scott Kazmir
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.
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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