Credit Where Credit’s Due: Kyle Kendrick’s 2011 Season

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, November 03, 2011 08:35 AM | Comments: 27
2011 Player Review, Analysis, Posts

No one gripes more about Kyle Kendrick than I do. No one. So when I say that the man who once started Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS had a decent season, that means something. Going into 2011, we thought Joe Blanton had been marginalized, but what about Kendrick? The man started 83 games from 2007 to 2010, ducking into and out of the starting rotation seemingly at random, but when Cliff Lee came back, Kendrick dropped all the way to seventh in the starting pitcher pecking order. Of course, because of injuries to Blanton and Roy Oswalt, Kendrick wound up making 15 starts in 2011 anyway, to go with 19 relief appearances. So how did it go?

Rather well, actually.

There’s an axiom I heard articulated first by ESPN’s Keith Law, though I’m not sure it originated with him. It goes like this: there are three things a pitcher can do: miss bats, not walk people, and get ground balls. Do one, and you can pitch in the majors. Do two, and you’ll be a good starter. Do all three, and you’re Roy Halladay.

Anyway, Kendrick was supposed to be a guy who didn’t walk people and got ground balls. What he’s never done is miss bats, and he didn’t do that this year–opponents made contact on nearly 89 percent of swings against Kendrick in 2011, compared to the major league average of just under 81 percent, numbers that are more or less in line with his career averages, which led to a 4.63 K/9 ratio, which, for a right-handed pitcher, is simply unacceptable. Kendrick hasn’t really gotten ground balls either, inducing 45.3 percent ground balls in 2011, against a 45.6 percent career average. That would have been tied for 44th in the majors had Kendrick qualified for the ERA title.

Despite this, Kendrick went 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA this season, pitching 114 2/3 valuable innings for a team that, for all its starting pitching depth, still had innings to fill at the end. So while on the one hand, nothing was particularly different in 2011 compared to previous seasons, and Kendrick’s 0.2 fWAR and 4.55 FIP this season seem to speak to the fact that he’s still a somewhat fringy major league starter. But on the other, the results, fluky as they may have been, speak for themselves.

Grade: 8/10 It was interesting to see the Red Sox struggle to find even replacement-level starting pitching at key points this season, and Kendrick’s season proved a valuable luxury for a team that, despite significant injuries to two of their top five starting pitchers, never wanted for someone who could go five innings and keep the team in the game. Kendrick’s in line for a huge payday in arbitration, and given that the peripherals didn’t match the performance in 2011, the Phillies would almost certainly be better off sending Kendrick packing this winter. If he has pitched his last in Philadelphia, this was quite a way to go out.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 0 Frank Riccard

    Should’ve traded him to Japan for Kobayashi when we had the chance.

    • Posts: 0 stefanbuld

      Marvellous article my friend. This is exactly what I’ve been looking exchange for after quite a without surcease now. You father my gratitude man. My install: Space Painting.

  • Posts: 449 Ian Riccaboni

    Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

    Kendrick is the poster boy for decent season, bad peripherals. I can’t figure out how he seems to do it year after year. Pat estimated $3.8 mil for Kendrick – that would be a fine price if we didn’t already have a surplus of pitching for a 5th starter but with Worley and Blanton available, that’s way too high for a team on a budget.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    It’s good we’re giveing Kyle credit for a fine season and also giving him a favorable grade, which he deserves. He is a guy who will improve, as well.

  • Posts: 2897 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Thank God we had Kyle Kendrick this past year. He started some games….at the LAST MINUTE… and did well and pitched well out of the pen,too. He’s versatile and just the kind of pitcher that a pitching staff needs. People need to just stop with all the hate towards this guy.

  • Posts: 5412 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    In determining whether to keep him or not, I think you have to put the up and down side on a scale.

    Do the outlying stats weigh more than the results? For all the reasons previously mentioned, I don’t think so, I think the positive results outweigh the logic at a fair arbitrated price. Is it possible the luck will run out? sure. It is also possible that he just has whatever it is that guys like him have, that allow him to stick around and perform at a 6- 6.5 level.

    All purpose Innings eaters that can keep their team in a game are unquestionably valuable, but IMO 8 out of 10 is too much MB, unless Halladay’s grade is a 20.

    • Posts: 33 Michael Baumann

      Avatar of Michael Baumann

      Well, I graded on a curve, that being that if Kendrick went out and didn’t get shelled, he gets a good grade. If I graded him on Halladay or Lee’s level, he’d be a 4 or a 5. Besides, I’ve killed the guy enough on this site that I figured it was time to give him a break.
      As far as outlying stats outweighing the results, as far as past performance goes, I agree with you that they don’t really. I’d rather have had a guy with a 3.2 ERA and a 4.5 FIP than a guy with a 4 ERA and a 4 FIP. But going forward, you have to look at peripherals, because they’re a more accurate indicator of future performance. So if Kendrick was really a 3.22 ERA guy, I’d keep him around, but he’s far more likely to return to being the mid-to-high-4-FIP guy he’s been his entire career, and if that’s the case, better to jettison him and find a cheaper option.

    • Posts: 1048 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      In addition to his skillset and magical ability to dance between raindrops, you also have to consider that he’ll likely be awarded something in the $4-5 million dollar range. For a team that is up against their spending ceiling and who has a gaping hole at SS and assorted other every-day position concerns, that money is very likely best spent elsewhere. Kendrick’s role is valuable, and his performance acceptable, but not anywhere near those prices.

      • Posts: 5412 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Eric, I guess I just don’t get why you’re willing to spend 16m on a 34 year old Oswalt that is presently on a three year downhill trending slide with a balky back to boot, but wouldn’t pay 4.5 for a versatile (borrowed your word Chuck A, sorry) young healthy guy that given a chance to learn from some great veterans is showing improvement. For all we know, he could be on the Halladay off-season work out program right now. I look more at trends than empirical evidence, I truly believe you get better information that way. Here’s a pitcher with similar numbers his first 5 seasons, worse actually, than Kendrick.


        Can Kendrick win a Cy Young? No- but he’s a young strong healthy pitcher that can improve significantly given the chance. And then the team would have a savings of 11m to address the “gaping holes and other position concerns”. I agree with betasigma below, 4-5 m is nothing for a long man/occasional starter like KK. We are so old and broken down in so many places, and we have a 26 year old reasonably priced pitcher that everyone wants to jettison, I guess I’ll never understand.

  • Posts: 1133 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    I am not sure how much is too much for KK but an arm like that then can come in from the pen for more then one inning after rain, or a bad outting by a starter is a pitcher a championship team needs. The guy been around the block and does whatever is ask of him. Is 3-5 million a year too much for that guy, and with all the talk about a vetern in the pen, hasn’t KK been around long enough to let the young guys know what kind of work ethic is needed to survive a full year in the show. And how you have to improve every time out to the mound. I think with what KK has done with and for this team he may be a good voice to have in a young pen

    • Posts: 1048 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      “Is 3-5 million a year too much for that guy…”

      Yes, it’s too much to pay for a 6th starter/longman. Guys who can come out of the pen and give you a handful of innings in a pinch aren’t hard to find and shouldn’t be paid a premium. Kendrick is a young Chad Durbin or David Herndon+, to use recent Phils as comparison, and there’s no way that level of talent is worth upwards of $5 million.

  • Posts: 1133 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    So you are saying Durbin was not worth 3 milliion, you jumped to the high number, I say you get KK for three years 10 million and that is a fair value for him. in terms of what guys are getting paid that in no way considered be paid a premium. And i guess my other question isn’t KK arbitration eligable which would mean that if they offer it and he takes it would he make more than 3 million for one year

  • Posts: 0 George

    Kendrick made $2.45 million in 2011. Does anyone seriously think he’ll get $4 or $5 million in arbitration? If you’re going to argue about whether he’s worth the money, at least state a reasonable figure. Arbitration would never more than double his salary but he might possibly get $1 million raise, although I’m not so certain of even that.

    What the Phils do with him is probably not decided yet. Blanton is still something of a question mark and presently there’s no Oswalt. One thing is for certain: if Kendrick gets his pink slip, the front office needs to add some rotation depth. Even a second rate non-tender will probably cost as much or more than Kendrick.

    • Posts: 1133 betasigmadeltashag

      Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

      Thank you for that, and it kinds of proves my point if he is only going to make at the most 3.5 million how is that a bad thing. My next question is would you sign him for 3 years? at say 8 million and structure it in a way like 2 mil-2.5 mil-3.5 mil. Or would it be better just to go year to year with him.

      • Posts: 0 George

        I wouldn’t sign him for anything because I’m not the GM. (Yep, it’s an old line, probably dating back before Abner Doubleday.)

        I will say that a player of Kendrick’s quality is rarely signed for more than 1-2 years.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    I certainly think he is worth the 4mill with the services he provided. Blanton is a question mark and we dont know if Vance season was a fluke yet. Sure you can bring in some bum for a little cheaper, but with that said bum give you a better chance to win the game than Kendrick. On most teams Kendrick would be a 4th starter he only really had one bad year and that was 2008. I also think the Phils called him up a little prematurely in the 1st place. He is never going to be that power pitcher strike out guy. More like a Jamie Moyer type of pitcher. Now that he has had a few years of MLB under the belt and perhaps some tutelage from Roys and Lee he possibly could improve. We where paying Moyer more money to essentially have similar numbers as Kendrick’s.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    Arbitration often yields goofy results.
    Some arbitrator may think Blanton is a 14 mil per year pitcher. Things like that happen. It is why teams avoid it like the plague.

    KK is a nice piece to a major league pitching staff. At a reasonable price.

    Oswalt is can be nothing but over paid at this point.

    Id certainly give KK a higher mark for 2011 than Oswalt.
    At some point I am hoping some of the older guys are moved ot sign elsewhere.
    KK Id like to have back at a decent amount.

  • Posts: 30 Gavin

    Avatar of Gavin

    He starts, he’s a long reliever, a short one; why don’t try him out for closer or maybe even shortstop
    I’m sure Mr. Do-it-all will do fine!

    No, but seriously, I think this guy deserves money. On so many teams he would be a 2 or 3 starter, you could say he’s unlucky to be here with the Phils.
    I don’t think he’ll get 4-5 million, but I think he definetily does deserve it.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    Kendrick , after his season as perhaps the best swing man in baseball, deserves some respect. We fans in Philly have an inclination to hold grudges, myself included. Let’s give Kyle some deserved credit.

  • Posts: 549 Brian Sr. of CO

    Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

    KK had a fine year! A career year, however before we go off the deep end with Kendrick as being awesome, or the best at something, lets see if he can do it for more than 1 season. Many of us jumped off the deep end for the guy (so to speak) after his Rookie season with a 3.92 ERA, only to be followed by a 5.49 ERA in 2008. He hasn’t really been consistent from year to year. 2008 could very well have been the “sophemore slump” because he lowered his ERA again to 3.42 (however only for 26 innings. Yet again in 2010 he was near 5 again, only to drop to 3.22 in 2011. He somehow seems to have yo-yo type stats, up and down. If he can stop the yo-yo, and stay consistent, GREAT! After the 2010 season, I would hope KK at least is given his fair chance to start in front of Blanton, regardless of salary. Blanton will be coming off of his worst, and most injusty plagued season of his career, while Kendrick will be coming off his best season in his short up and down season. I hope the 2011 season is close to the Kendrick we can expect now. If this is the Kendrick we will have in 2012, I would rather have him then most others. Kendrick without a doubt deserves credit for his 2011 season, but before we get to fasr crowning him as anything, I would like to see a little more consistency.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    We know the guy isnt going to be the next Cliff Lee or Roy H or Cole. However if he can provide starts worthy of a 4th starter for 4 million its worth a shot.

  • Posts: 0 zubzub

    Check the stats guys. Kendrick is Blanton. Only younger with an upside and cheaper. Not many guys can handle the back and forth he went thru this year from the bullpen to sudden starter and remain consistent. Remember what happened to Worley when they asked him to throw from the bullpen a couple of times? Kendrick will end up as your number four or five. And hell be a good one. He’s only 26 folks. He’s a keeper.

    • Posts: 0 George

      Kendrick is actually 27, and he’s not Blanton, although the results for some strange reason have been similar. Blanton has a much higher strikeout rate, a lower batting average against, a lower whip (though only slightly), many more complete games, and has pitched over 200 innings twice and more than 190 innings in other years.

  • Posts: 58 LCMRSalazar85

    Avatar of LCMRSalazar85

    KK won’t’ be trade bait until after the season starts, and the question marks on Blanton are somewhat answered. If Big Joe has a good to great start, KK’s packing. If Big Joe has less than a good/great start KK’s here for the year. He won’t get $4-$5 mil, but more like $3-$4 mil once the case gets to arbitration.

  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    I have coached different sports at various levels, including high school, as an assistant for a very successful program that won a state playoff game (in case you didn’t know, this is a basketball city and winning a state playoff game is a big deal). I learned a lot coaching high school basketball… life lessons, strategic planning, thinking under pressure… one of the things that I learned sitting on the bench next to a fabulous head coach is that it’s important to know when a player/worker has reached his limit. I’m trying to avoid the cliches… in Kendrick’s case, Charlie mixed in just the right amount of Kendrick to allow him to be successful and, in turn, the team reaped the benefits. Sometimes, you have to pull a player when he appears to be playing well… anything more and I think we would have seen Kendrick’s numbers normalize. I don’t want to take anything away from Kendrick because he still had to go out there and pitch but everyone knows what he is, at this point. You’re not going to fool an opposing GM into overpaying for Kyle Kendrick. He deserves good grades but I think that Charlie deserves some credit for his success (or lack of implosion), as well.

    • Posts: 0 George

      I totally agree that Manuel’s use of Kendrick helped in his success. Many times he pulled Kendrick from starts when KK had low pitch counts. It was as if Charlie knew when Kyle was about to stumble.

  • Posts: 0 Lewisauce

    Find someone to take Kentucky Joe and the Albatross Contract (which, btw, would make a great name for a bluesy rock band) off our hands, and make KK the fifth starter.

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