A look through Scott Kazmir's career statistics reveal a blank. He made it to the major leagues young. He pitched some great seasons, none better than his 239-strikeout 2007.
Then, after throwing just one outing in 2011, he fell off the record book. In less than two innings, his ERA was 27.0. In Triple-A afterward, he was 0-5 with a 17.02 ERA. After that, baseball-wise, he disappeared. Last year, it appeared the Cleveland Indians were making a nonsensical move when they signed Kazmir.
Then he showed up and showed glimpses of his old self. The overall product wasn't consistent. But there were flashes. This year, he's been that guy he was before, only better. It's hard to imagine, but the guy who made two all-star teams before he was 24 years old is going back to the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
All Grown Up
And he's more responsible this team around. SFGate.com reported that Kazmir will be the team's "chaperone with seven players and their family members headed to Minnesota. He's got the info for buses and helped pay for the players' charter flight (the team paid what first-class tickets would cost).
“It’s all resting on him. He’s all grown up," teammate Sean Doolittle told SFGate.com. "I know if I miss anything, if I do anything wrong, it’s Kaz’s fault.”
The way Kazmir fell off the MLB grid and rose again, the most obvious explanation would have been Tommy John surgery. It fits the timeline and would explain the 2011 implosion.
But, oddly enough, it wasn't an injury. He just lost it and now he's found it again, through working with Ron Wolforth at the Texas Baseball Ranch, a process that ESPN.com recently chronicled.
Risk Paid Off
The Athletics certainly took a risk signing Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal that included an all-star bonus. But, that deal has certainly paid off. Now he's 11-3 with a 2.38 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He's pitched a complete game and has been outstanding in most of his 19 starts.
His June 24 start at the Mets, when he gave up seven earned runs in three innings against the team that originally drafted him and then traded him to the then-Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano, was the main one that was forgettable.
Besides that, he's been pretty dominant for an Athletics team that's in first place in the AL West and ready to fight for a title after adding all-star Jeff Samardzija and teammate Jason Hammel to a pitching staff already led by Kazmir, Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez, though Drew Pomeranz is back in the minors and pitching as well.
Producing When Needed
Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are out for the season, which has made Kazmir's resurgence even more important. And he's doing it with perspective, knowing how far he had come since topping out in the low 80s on the radar gun and then starting his comeback with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters.
"The biggest piece of analysis we did was try not to outthink ourselves on it," A's assistant GM Farhan Zaidi told ESPN.com. "We saw a guy who was relatively young, who had good stuff, who had good numbers, who was a good fit for our park. We might not have viewed what he did in 2013 with the suspicion that some other teams did."
And they were right. Scott Kazmir is back. At 30, he's better than he ever was. He's got a lot of the stuff he had when he was younger and he's got his head in the game now more than ever. He's matured. He appreciates it. And, man he's fun to watch.
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