Behind the Comeback: The Scott Kazmir Revival
The ONLY article that takes you inside the comeback.
We all know the story. One of the games brightest young stars that fell off extraordinarily, leading to his release. The past two seasons, Scott Kazmir has been out of Major League Baseball, slowly working his way back from the brink. This is not a speculation piece of what went wrong, but a description of where he is now and how he got there.
The first thing everyone wants to know about Kazmir is his velocity. After his release, Scott’s velocity had dipped into the low 80’s. I know. I've caught his bullpens since his release from the Angels. I can say that the last time we got on the radar gun, he registered 93mph on the gun with only his warm-up pitches being under 90mph. That was this fall. Today, he consistently registered 92-94 on the radar gun and topped out at 96mph. The tempo in his delivery, which was very slow and off-balance last year, has returned to the smooth, athletic-looking delivery and follow through that Rays fans had been accustomed to watching.
The next thing people want to know is about his slider that was so dominant at one time. When he was released, it was a cement mixer with little break if any at all. I remember several bullpen sessions based soley on the slider that would not come around. Zero break. ZERO. As of the last bullpen he not only has depth and lateral movement back, but it is very sharp. Today, it was on display in BIG fashion. It was sharp and fast at 84mph (his fastball topped at 83mph in a Dominical Winter League game two winters ago). In addition to that, he has since added a sharp 12-6 curve that he throws for strikes, and has tinkered with a variation of a splitter that he calls his “knuckle split” that behaves like a change/curve hybrid. He also has a changeup that is very useful. These pitches in addition to his 4-seam and his darting 2-seam makes 5 pitches compared to his former 2-pitch arsenal.
His physical condition has also improved dramatically as well. He was once weighing as high as 205 lbs. With hard work with Lee Fiocchi and myself at DST in Houston, TX, Kazmir has gotten his weight down to an athletic 185, lowering his body fat under 10%. It took every bit of this time out of the MLB to work his way back. I remember early on, we tested Scott’s vertical leap. We use this as a test of instantaneous power output. His first jump was 31 inches. His second was 29 inches, and his last was around 27 inches. He then gave the hand motion that he was done. Most recently, we measured his vertical jump at 39.6 inches that he wrote on the board in our weight room, jokingly informing everyone that it was a world record. His loss of weight has not been a detriment to his strength, as he likes to deadlift as heavy as 450 lbs. His program was tediously designed by DST founder, Lee Fiocchi. The program was a blend of mobility work, strength and energy system development while training each phase of all muscular contractions. After one bullpen, his agent said that he had never seen him look so good, even at his best. Joking that he was “boy band status”.
His confidence has also made a comeback. Early on, Scott seemed confused and lost, knowing he still had it in him, but didn’t know what to do. As of late, he definitely has been confident. In a recent interview, he said that he believes he can be one of the best pitchers in the game, today…and he definitely believes that, and you can see it by the way he carries himself. This isn’t a cocky swagger, but a confidence that comes from hard work…HARD WORK. Confidence from working with Ron Wolforth who helped him with his mechanics that led him back into the 90’s. This is confidence from comes from the sweat of workouts focused on regaining his explosiveness, the burned skin of noontime 80-pitch bullpens in the summer time of Houston, TX in 110 degree heat and a few dawn bullpens at 6 a.m., before the sunrise, because we were working on things and couldn’t miss an opportunity to perfect what we were working on. I remember getting to his house for a 5:30am warm-up (we used our DST Hip Mobility/DynoTesting warm-up), and having him explain that he had flood lights we could set up. They didn't work too well. It was so dark, that the first warm-up pitch zoomed past my head without me realizing he had thrown it. Because of this, we waited until the first instant I could see t`he ball coming toward me. While we waited, we talked about future games like he had today, half joking that it would make one hell of a story.
Lastly, is a topic of his command and ability to miss bats. When I first started catching him, neither of us had any idea where the ball was going. One out of every 5 throws found its way 30 feet into the fence along side the bullpen. Before he left for Spring Training, without exaggeration, there were 'pens when I never had to move my mitt. This past season in the Atlantic League, his K/BB ration wasn’t even 2/1, but as recent as this winter, playing in Puerto Rico, His K/BB ratio was about 4/1. This shows an improved command and strikeout ability. In his last 2 starts for Cleveland, he has a 17K/1BB ratio in just 12 innings. Today he threw over 70% strikes.
Whether or not the time is now for Scott Kazmir’s return to dominance remains to be seen. However, it is undeniable he is on a good path, and seems to be getting better and better each day. When I originally wrote this article, before todays modifications, most wrote it off as a puff piece, but there is not puff to it. The fact it that it took a long time for today to come around, and there is still alot of work for Scott to do, but one pitch at a time, he continues his march back to the top.
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