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No smoke and mirrors: Kyle Kendrick is the real deal
by Scott Butler 4/27/13

Like a father watching his son ride a bike on his own for the first time, I am super proud of Kyle Kendrick and you should be, too. Or, as Jim Salisbury put it, "Kyle Kendrick has become a man."

The ups and downs in Kendrick's career are like a bike ride through the Appalachian Trail: minor leaguer-turned major leaguer-turned playoff starter in 2007; major leaguer in 2008-turned minor leaguer in 2009-turned major leaguer in 2010; reliever-turned starter-turned reliever-turned starter in 2011 and 2012; and a fake trade for Kobayashi thrown in for good measure.

And here is the latest twist: after last night's complete game shutout, Kendrick's 2.41 ERA is the best on the staff...and it didn't come from nowhere...

The numbers are impressive:

2.41 ERA in 5 starts this season.

3.19 ERA in his final 12 starts last season.

9-4 record with a 2.42 ERA over his last 15 starts.

3.48 ERA in his last 45 starts.

Kyle's ability to dominate a squad as he did last night should not come as a surprise. As much as he does not look the part, Kendrick has proven he has the stuff to shut down an offense. In his 9 best starts last season he averaged 7.3 innings per outing with a microscopic 0.82 ERA.

We are not talking about a Joe Blanton "give my team a chance to win" type of pitcher here. What we have with KK is a potential ace on any given day.

2013 is not the first time Kendrick has enjoyed sustained success. In a stretch of nine starts from July 6 to Sep 10 last season Kendrick had a 2.38 ERA. He allowed two or fewer runs in all but one start, pitched 6 or more innings seven times, and threw 7 or more innings four times.

The key to Kyle Kendrick is avoiding the disastrous starts. In his 8 worst outings last season he averaged just 4.5 innings per start with a 10.47 ERA.

In his first outing this season, the numbers sounded an alarm that the same old Kyle Kendrick would resurface as he allowed 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings and a 7.94 ERA for the game. However, only two of the runs occurred with Kendrick on the mound. Horst relieved Kendrick and allowed a bases loaded triple - with all three runs charged to Kendrick.

The 25-year-old Kendrick might have had his confidence shattered, but the 28-year-old version came back with 2 runs in his next start and a 1.29 ERA in his next four starts.

More encouraging was his Sunday night start against the Cardinals. In that outing, he surrendered a first inning solo homer, had two baserunners in the second and fourth innings, three baserunners in the sixth, yet he escaped with just two runs allowed.

Is it reasonable to expect a big year from Kyle Kendrick? Absolutely. Here's why.

Oftentimes what separates great pitchers from good ones is their ability to wiggle out of jams. Roy Halladay is a perfect example. In 2011 the leadoff batter reached base with a .317 average and a .343 on base percentage, yet Doc finished second in Cy Young voting with a 2.35 ERA and allowed more than 4 earned runs just once.

Kendrick has not been that pitcher throughout his career - he has not been able to avoid that one disastrous inning. Well, just for fun, let's pretend a maturation has indeed occurred and remove two of his worst starts from last season and dropping his 2012 ERA to 3.40. If we also add one shutout to the mix his ERA drops to 3.20, which is better than 3 of Hamels' seasons. It just shows the potential that exists.

This is no longer a case of smoke and mirrors. As I mentioned before, Kyle Kendrick could be the X-factor for the 2013 Phillies. To expect big things from Kendrick is not just some fairy tale. A 3.48 ERA in 45 starts is a year and a half of proof that a dominant Kyle Kendrick might be a reality.

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