Scott Kazmir‘s velocity is down. We can actually say that with certainty now. He isn’t saving it for the regular season anymore, so we have data to look at that actually matters:
Last season, Kazmir’s four-seam fastball averaged 93.0 mph (92.3mph in April). In his Dodger debut last night, the pitch averaged 90.6mph. That’s a difference of 1.5-2.5mph, depending on the timeframe you use to compare.
Obviously, Kazmir’s debut was stellar, so there’s only so much use in actually worrying about this now. However, other recent Dodger acquisitions have debuted extremely well before turning out to be duds. Kevin Correia allowed one run in six innings. Mat Latos did the same. This isn’t meant to scare you, or to imply that Kazmir will be as bad as them, but it should keep things in perspective as we think about what he will be going forward.
However, Kazmir made one major change which needs to be monitored. Here’s a plot of horizontal movement and velocity from his start last night:
See the big cluster of pitches on the upper right? Those are two seam fastballs (labeled “sinkers” on the velocity chart, and the difference between the two is very minor). As you can see, Kazmir threw a lot of them last night. It’s a pretty big shift from last year, too:
The big outlier on the upper right of the chart is Kazmir’s two-seam usage last night. In 2015, he threw 26% two seam fastballs, compared to 32% four-seam. Last night, he threw 54% two-seam fastballs compared to 8% four-seam. Things look even more interesting when looking at velocity. Last season, Kazmir’s two-seamer averaged 91.8mph. Last night, the two-seamer was clocked at an average of 91.1mph. That’s still down, obviously, but it’s a much smaller drop than the four-seam, which he didn’t actually very much.
Here is MLB’s highlight video from last night. Jon Jay‘s groundout is on a two-seam fastball. So are the Cory Spangenberg and Melvin Upton strikeouts.
Obviously, this is micro-analyzing one outing. Kazmir only threw 75 pitches, and he could well throw a bunch of four-seam fastballs his next time out. For what it’s worth, Kazmir threw more two-seamers than four-seamers in the spring training starts which were recorded on Pitch FX, but the difference was not nearly as big. Perhaps this is an idiosyncrasy with how Austin Barnes called the game.
This could be a blip, but two games into the season, all we have to analyze are the blips. At least this way, we have something significant to watch moving forward. Kazmir could be an entirely new pitcher this season, after all.