On Scott Kazmir, And Pitcher Reclamation Projects

OAKLAND CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Scott Kazmir #19 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim leaves the game in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 3 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Scott Kazmir is available now, and he used to be really good. Worth a flier, right? Well, there's something you should understand about pitchers like this.

Scott Kazmir was once a really good pitcher. More recently, he has been a really bad pitcher, and the Angels have waived him preparatory to granting him his unconditional release. The Angels grew sick of Kazmir's low velocity and terrible control, as any team would have. But then, Kazmir's only 27, right? He's still young, which means he's worth a flier, just in case he can get back to being what he was, right?

In theory, absolutely. In theory, the bad Scott Kazmir is not too far away from being the good Scott Kazmir, because Scott Kazmir is Scott Kazmir, and if he can achieve a certain level of performance once, there's no reason to believe he couldn't do it again, given that he's still young.

But there's something to understand about pitchers like Kazmir, and about pitchers like Oliver Perez, Dontrelle Willis and Mark Prior. All of these guys - and countless others - were excellent in their youth. But all of these guys broke down, and all of these guys turned into fundamentally different pitchers when, or before, they did.

Perez lost his stuff. Willis lost his stuff. Prior lost his stuff. Kazmir lost his stuff. Sometimes, when a pitcher loses his stuff, it eventually comes back. Far, far more often, it doesn't. Most of the time, when a pitcher loses his stuff, he has to learn to pitch with whatever he has left.

Which means, for broken-down pitchers like Kazmir, the only thing connecting them to their early-career success is their name. The Scott Kazmir the Angels just waived has the same name as the Scott Kazmir who dominated with the Rays a few years ago, but the Scott Kazmir who dominated with the Rays a few years ago dominated with a hard fastball, a sharp slider, and a strong changeup. He doesn't throw those same pitches anymore, and so he isn't the same pitcher.

It doesn't make sense to look at Kazmir and think he has a shot at getting back to what he used to do. Kazmir won't get back to what he was, because Kazmir's a different guy now, and all the mechanical tweaks in the world won't change that. If anything, mechanical tweaks would only make him more different. They'd be attempts to compensate for his worse stuff.

Does this mean that it's impossible for Kazmir to find success again? No, it isn't impossible, just as it isn't impossible for Perez, Willis or Prior to find success again. These are still pitchers with good arms, and a fair bit of valuable experience. But when you're dealing with a reclamation project, it's probably better to ignore his name entirely. The name "Scott Kazmir" conjures a certain image, but that image is history. Scott Kazmir isn't Scott Kazmir anymore. He's just a lefty with an arm and a dream.

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