BDD: Happ > Kendrick

At Baseball Digest Daily, I suggest that the Phillies should pick J.A. Happ over Kyle Kendrick for the #5 spot in the rotation, assuming that Jamie Moyer is re-signed.

Marcel projects a 4.28 ERA for [Happ] in ‘09 — a 0.43 difference between Happ and Kendrick. Pretty significant. What should be a slam dunk decision might end up turning into a blunder at the end of spring training that could cost them several wins throughout the year.

Now, it might not be as dumb as not offering arbitration to Pat Burrell, then going out and signing an older but very similar player in Raul Ibanez… but illogical nonetheless.

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  1. PhillyFriar

    December 14, 2008 03:48 PM

    I’ve read for a little while but haven’t commented on anything yet. Just wanted to say first, keep up the good work here.

    As for this entry: couldn’t agree more. I have no problem making it an “open competition” in spring training, but the deciding factor should be whether Kendrick has miraculously developed a major league caliber change up. Assuming he hasn’t, then Happ is clearly your guy. Yes, he’ll walk some guys and give up some HRs, but he’ll keep a lot more balls out of play than Kendrick will.

    And one thing’s for sure: unless Happ looks absolutely terrible, Carlos Carrasco should start in Lehigh Valley. No need to rush him with J.A. ready for the 5th spot.

  2. Bill Baer

    December 14, 2008 05:19 PM

    Friar, thanks for the kind words.

    Agreed on Carrasco. I’m not sure he’s MLB-ready yet. As you mentioned, there’s no need to rush him, and as odd as it sounds, I’d rather have Adam Eaton take the bump than Carrasco to start the season.

    On Kendrick, I’ve been saying this for over a year now: I think he should go back to AAA and work on a splitter. He needs a strikeout pitch and he doesn’t have a repertoire that would benefit from a change-up. He doesn’t throw hard enough and he doesn’t have good enough deception for it to be an effective pitch. Given his sinker, a splitter would be a perfect complement. It might not bring his K/9 up to 7, but I can pretty much guarantee that if he ends up with a decent splitter, his LD% will be 20 or lower (as opposed to the 27% it was last season).

    I can’t back that statement up but I feel confident in saying that, and I predicted a Rockies-Indians World Series before the ’08 season.

  3. PhillyFriar

    December 14, 2008 06:22 PM

    Re: Kendrick, him learning an effective splitter would be a good solution to his issues. In addition to hopefully bumping up his K rate and lowering his line drive rate, it could also solve maybe his biggest issue: retiring left-handed hitters. As I’m sure you’re aware, Kendrick’s splits are substantial.

    vs. RHB: .271 BAA, 1.33 WHIP, 45:19 K:BB
    vs. LHB: .334 BAA, 1.90 WHIP, 23:38 K:BB

    I know that some pitchers use their splitter as a change-up of sorts, capitalizing on the 4 mph difference between the fastball and sinker to keep opposite-handed hitters off balance. So if you don’t think a straight change would work for KK, then maybe he can utilize his splitter in this manner. Food for thought anyway.

    But one thing’s clear: he’s not going to learn this stuff as a major league starter. If the Phillies are smart — and that’s open for debate — Lehigh Valley beckons for young Kyle.

  4. Bill Baer

    December 14, 2008 07:15 PM

    Yeah, I think Kyle has potential, but he can’t realize it staying in the Majors. It is perhaps ironic that his success as a rookie has stunted his progress.

    I was trying to find out how his change-up fares against left-handed hitters, but Josh Kalk’s card for Kendrick says he doesn’t even throw it, which is in direct contradiction to “actually watching the game” and FanGraphs.

    I can’t recall his change-up ever being particularly effective. Being a pitcher that relies so heavily on the sinker and a high ground ball percentage, he would benefit more from another pitch that can be similarly driven straight into the ground.

    To go off on another side road, one of the Phils’ new acquisition, Ronny Paulino, has a reputation for being lazy and being unwilling to make great efforts to block balls in the dirt. If Kendrick is developing a splitter, I’d make sure I’d never pair him up with Paulino. As cliche as it sounds, I think confidence in your catcher’s ability to block balls in the dirt has a lot to do with the success of the splitter.

  5. ShooterB

    December 15, 2008 12:43 PM

    Wrong, you gotta give the spot to Adam Eaton. Mainly because fans want to see high-scoring games. Give the fans what they want.

    I’m trying to picture Charlie Manuel going over sabermetrics stats & pitch charts…and I just can’t see it.

  6. Bill Baer

    December 15, 2008 05:57 PM

    Shooter, as usual, I can’t argue with your flawless logic. Adam Eaton definitely should be in the rotation. In fact, why not bump him up ahead of Cole Hamels?

    You know how people always point out that people are never who you expect them to be? Well, imagine Charlie Manuel retiring to the bowels of Citizens Bank Park after a hard-fought win, logging into his premium account at Bill James Online, and setting up a series of analytical spreadsheets. He then posts the conclusions of his analysis on his blog for review and criticism.

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