It is the age old saying: Kyle Kendrick is a schizophrenic and so is he. OK, maybe not a direct quote but the scenario works here. The possibilities with Kendrick are endless. He could be the solid and consistent pitcher who jumped onto the scene in 2007. He could be the wildly inconsistent 2011 version who still managed a 3.22 ERA. He could be the Kendrick from 2008 and 2010 who barely belonged in the majors. Or he could be the Kyle Kendrick with a 3.62 ERA in 40 starts over the past two seasons and a 3.19 ERA in his final 12 starts in 2012.
Which Kyle Kendrick will emerge in 2013?
The majority of the focus on the pitching side for the Phils is placed squarely on the shoulders of Doc Halladay. Let's face it, any chances of the Phillies reaching the promised land may begin and end with Doc. But a similar argument could be made about KK. If Kendrick replicates his 5.49 ERA in 2008 and becomes another Adam Eaton or Chad Qualls the Phillies could be in a heap of trouble. But if for some strange reason Kendrick reproduces his 3.19 ERA in his last 12 starts last season, the Phillies would have a near ace on their hands for the mere sum of $4.5 million.
The ups, downs, and strange twists in Kendrick’s career are abundant. Is it possible the strangest twist still lies in front of us and Kyle becomes a top of the rotation type of starter?
Kendrick's results as a starting pitcher in 2012 were much the same as the rest of his merry-go-round career. In his 9 best starts he gave up 6 runs in 65.2 innings for a 0.82 ERA, but in his 8 worst starts he allowed 42 runs in 36.1 innings for a 10.47 ERA.
To gauge what to expect from Kendrick in 2013 it makes sense to look at those best and worst games. Why was he so horrendous in 8 starts and so glorious in nine others? Is there anything in the stats that gives us reason to believe he is prepared for a dominant season?
That is where my focus lies. Let’s delve into the numbers to see what we can expect from Kyle Kendrick in 2013. Get ready for more way more information than you ever wanted.
Kendrick throws four pitches: fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. The chart below shows the percentage of times he threw each pitch and his average velocity (according to Fangraphs) for his best 9 starts (in yellow) and his worst 8 starts (in grey).
In Kendrick's best starts, he threw more fastballs and mixed his secondary pitches more. In his worst starts, he relied less on his fastball and changeup, much more on his cutter, and ignored his curveball. We also see that his velocity for all pitches is less when he struggles. The end result is nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
The next chart shows how batters approach Kendrick in his good and bad starts. For most pitchers, it is control and command that rules the day, but with Kendrick that does not appear to be the case. His strike percentage in good games (65.7%) is not much different from that in poor outings (61.4%).
Rather, the numbers suggest that his success is based on movement of pitches. When Kendrick succeeds, hitters' overall swing percentage is 7 points higher, their percentage of swings on pitches outside the strike zone is 9 points higher, their contact percentage drops by 6 points, and their swinging strike percentage is nearly 4 points higher. The end result is that hitters are swinging at more pitches and connecting on fewer pitches.
Finally we get to the outcomes of each at-bat. In general, grounders are a pitcher's friend and line drives are their enemy since line drives fall in for hits at a much greater rate than grounders or fly balls. Kendrick predictably allowed more ground balls, less line drives and fly balls, and more strikeouts.
My final synopsis of Kendrick is this: he pitches much better when he is good and much worse when he is bad. That expert analysis comes absolutely free of charge. Kendrick did not find a new pitch, develop new movement, or discover some miracle drug, ahem Chooch/Galvis, ahem. At the end of the day, it is still the same old Kyle Kendrick with the ability to throw a gem one day and a turd the next.
The only difference is that Kendrick was able to string together more of the good ones for a longer period of time than he had in the past. In a stretch of nine starts from July 6 to Sep 10, Kendrick had 7 quality starts, pitched six or more innings 7 times, pitched seven or more innings 4 times, and allowed two or fewer runs in all but one start. Kendrick may not have discovered a secret garden, but he was able to replicate his success much more frequently.
In some ways, consistency is the sign that he might have finally turned the corner. It took him a while, but Kendrick clearly found a plan that worked and was able to execute it more times than not. Although he still has much to prove, Kyle Kendrick might be the biggest surprise for Phillies fans in 2013.
My prediction: 30+ starts and a 3.42 ERA in 2013.comments powered by Disqus