Is Kyle Kendrick for real?
by Scott Butler 10/3/12

How good did Kyle Kendrick look last night?

His Jekyll and Hyde act over the years has caused me to consistently find excuses to avoid the TV during most Kyle Kendrick innings, but on Monday night I was locked in.  Pitching in front of a full house in Washington (it only took them an NL East clincher to finally show up) in a crucial game for the Nats, Kendrick was downright dominant.  It’s one thing to beat a team like the hapless Marlins with nothing to play for, but it is quite another to defeat a team on clinch night with the possibility (albeit a slim one) of their division title slipping away.

Make no mistake, the Washington Nationals wanted this game.  Jayson Werth, Mr. ESPN Bryce Harper, and Michael Morse knew what was on the line and knew the pressure was on them to seal the deal, but KK nixed those plans.  In a meaningful game amidst a playoff atmosphere, Kendrick limited those three to three hits and the Nationals as a team were unable to plate a single run and mustered a total of 4 hits in seven innings.

Kendrick’s October 1 start was his signature performance of the second half of the season.  He was ahead of the hitters, mixed four pitches, and had terrific movement.  We have seen games like these in the past, including the 2008 season in which he had a 5.49 ERA.  But 2012 is the first time he did so consistently.

As much as you might try to suppress it, there is a thought lingering in the back of your mind that wonders if Kyle Kendrick has turned the corner.  His 2.87 ERA since the all-star break is nothing to sneeze at. Had he done that over an entire season it would rank 7th in the league.  Kyle Kendrick spent his career as an adolescent and left 2012 as a man.  Evidence for that was his final pitch of the sixth inning to Michael Morse.  His 3-2 delivery with a runner on second and two outs ran over the outside edge and was as good a pitch I have seen from any pitcher on any team this season.

Tough Road for Kyle Kendrick

And it has not come easy for Kyle throughout his career. Kendrick jumped onto the scene in 2007 and surprised everyone with his toughness en route to a 10-4 record and a 3.87 ERA, but his 5.49 ERA the following season earned him a roster spot at Lehigh Valley in 2009. At the time, Rich Dubee essentially told Kendrick to get another pitch or go home.

Kendrick added a cutter that season and found himself back with the Phillies in 2010. In a highly erratic season, he finished with a 4.73 ERA and found himself mostly in the bullpen over the next two seasons. His 4.89 ERA in the first half of 2012 suggested that might be all she wrote for KK, but he surprised us once again with a tremendous second half surge. Mixed in was a prank at Kendrick’s expense that exposed Brett Myers for the weak-willed bully he proved to be.

Giving Kendrick a two-year, $7 million contract prior to the season seemed almost laughably ludicrous even for Ruben Amaro, but now it appears that Ruben might have swiped millions of dollars from Kyle’s pocket. 

Kendrick’s performance has undoubtedly earned him a spot in the Phillies rotation as the fourth or fifth starter in 2013. Kendrick has been way too inconsistent over the years to expect him to be anything more than a 4 or a 5, but a sub-three ERA over a half season has to raise at least one eyebrow. In the sea of uncertainty that surrounds the Phillies over the offseason, Kendrick sure is an intriguing "what if?"

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