The New and Improved Kyle Kendrick

You ask, I deliver. Commenter JRFarmer posted this:

Any chance we can get a Kyle Kendrick analysis article? Obviously, his results are exceptional, but how do his advanced stats look (retro-dictors, etc)? Is it sustainable?

I’d actually like to make it even broader to address what changed last year, as 2012 was a tale of two seasons for KK. In the first half, he was shuffled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. He had some crummy starts and he had some decent starts, typical Kendrick fare. He then went the entire month of July without giving up a single run, pitching out of the bullpen in seven of his eight appearances. Through August 8, he had a 4.86 ERA. In his next two starts, he would shut out the Marlins over seven innings and the Brewers over eight, both starts on the road. Between that Marlins start and the end of the season, Kendrick posted a 2.43 ERA in 63 innings.

It was after the Marlins start we found out Kendrick had been counseled by just about all of the trusted authorities in his life: manager Charlie Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee, and his father. Kendrick said:

“Sometimes I overthink stuff or get cutter-happy,” Kendrick said when asked about his inconsistency. “Last game I threw 30 cutters; that’s not me. Dubee and I talked about going with who I am, being who I am.

“When I have success I’m doing what I did tonight: Just sinker, pound the sinker, throw changeups and get early contact. I threw four cutters tonight; that’s who I am.”

Paul Boye wrote about this last year as well. He chose to draw the line at July 1, but I would even go as far as that Marlins start. Boye showed that Kendrick’s ability to generate swings and misses boomed as a result of cutting down his reliance on his cut fastball while increasing the use of his change-up and two-seam fastball.

Via Brooks Baseball, here is the breakdown of Kendrick’s pitch selection by year:

 

Due to MLBAM’s pitch classification system, you can consider “FC” (“fastball – cut”), and in Kendrick’s case, “SL” (“slider”) to be the same. You can see he had never used it more than in 2010-11, and it has declined fast in 2012-13. Meanwhile, his sinker usage is back up.

From the beginning of 2009 through August 3 last year, Kendrick threw 962 sliders/cutters to left-handed hitters out of 3,271 total pitches to lefties (29 percent) against which they posted a .375 wOBA. To put that in perspective, David Wright and Joe Mauer finished 2012 with a .376 wOBA. Since then, he has thrown 84 sliders/cutters to lefties out of 736 total pitches (11 percent), against which they have posted a .340 wOBA (2012 comp: A.J. Ellis, .341).

Instead of throwing cutters, Kendrick has thrown more change-ups. In the first sample, Kendrick threw 615 change-ups to lefties (19 percent) and allowed a .319 wOBA. In the second sample, Kendrick has thrown 236 change-ups to lefties (32 percent) for a .264 wOBA.

Lefties were always Kendrick’s biggest issue, which is why I suggested the Phillies use him as a ROOGY (right-hanted, one-out guy) in previous years. But look at how his xFIP against them has improved substantially:

xFIP PA vs. L
2007 5.23 247
2008 5.76 376
2009 5.14 54
2010 5.22 383
2011 5.17 216
2012 4.64 336
2013 4.06 68

His strikeout rate against lefties has gone from seven percent in 2007 to 17 percent between 2012-13. You can also see that, of the few cutters Kendrick still throws, his placement has changed as well. He is, for the most part, away from the middle of the plate.

Right now, Kendrick has a 2.41 ERA on the season. Obviously, that’s not sustainable over a full season. He does, however, have a 3.50 xFIP and 3.89 SIERA, which are very realistic for a pitcher with a three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio and without as much of a drastic platoon split. If Kendrick were to finish with an ERA in the 3.75 area, that would not be surprising in the least based on information we know now.

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23 comments

  1. nik

    April 29, 2013 09:38 AM

    Time to lock up KK to an extension is now. 3 years – $16 million.

  2. Send Ben Revere Down Poll

    April 29, 2013 10:32 AM

    He is definitely a feel good story and one of RAJ’s good moves. We all crucified him for giving him the two year contract but it looks smart now.

  3. Tim M.

    April 29, 2013 10:43 AM

    How much of an effect has being under the tutelage of Roy Halladay played into KK’s improvement over the last two years?

  4. Ryan

    April 29, 2013 10:56 AM

    Now Kendrick can tutor Halladay about how to pitch at lower speeds!

  5. Kyle Kendrick

    April 29, 2013 11:03 AM

    KK to Halladay: When I left last offseason, I was but the learner; now *I* am the master.

  6. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    April 29, 2013 11:07 AM

    Actually, you laugh, but Kendrick’s recipe for success–give up on a cutter which isn’t working, concentrate on the sinker/change combination–is basically what Halladay is doing. Except Halladay, being Halladay, still has a great breaking pitch too.

    There are lots of reasons to be pessimistic about this season, but a starting rotation of Hamels/Lee, 3/4 of the old Roy Halladay, and the new Kyle Kendrick should keep them in a lot of ballgames.

  7. Ryan

    April 29, 2013 11:13 AM

    Things are trending up for the Phillies with Halladay, Utley, and Howard all looking good lately. I’m not sure whether Demon Young and and Chooch will solve the offensive/vs. lefty consistency problems or not, but that could be something to address via trade if our outfield doesn’t right itself pretty soon.

  8. Milho

    April 29, 2013 12:59 PM

    Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!

  9. Phillie697

    April 29, 2013 01:09 PM

    I don’t think we all “blasted” RAJ for the KK contract. We definitely all thought it was bad, and I still do; we could have gone to arbitration with him and got a cheaper deal, and that was part of the reason for hating the extension. Although “blast” is a strong word; I think my comment at the time went something like, “I can’t get too worked up over $3M a year, not for a good guy like KK. Still a bad contract tho, shame on RAJ.”

    @Ryan,

    Did you seriously just say trade? You’re still harboring realistic hopes of playoffs at the trade deadline? Really? THAT SAID… All these talks about anybody, even KK, is premature. IT’ FREAKING APRIL!!!

  10. Phillie697

    April 29, 2013 01:21 PM

    BTW, off topic, but can someone please explain to me why it almost seems like one of the must-have qualifications to being a baseball broadcaster is that you either have to have the IQ of a vegetable or be so unprepared for your job that you should be fired? Tim McCarver, Saturday’s Nats-Reds broadcast, was commenting on Justin Upton and explaining why the Diamondbacks had to make that trade: “Well he has played badly for a couple of years now, and he really hasn’t produced in Arizona.” Hey McCarver, did someone erase your memory? Are you doing heroine? Are you dumb as a brick? Or do you know so little about the state of affairs in baseball, and have done NO homework, that you just make shit up on air that sounds like you know what you’re talking about? Justin Upton had exactly ONE bad year, by his standards. This after putting up a MVP-worthy season in 2011. And in 4 years in Arizona, he put up WARs of 4.6, 2.6, 6.0, and 2.0. Arizona got fleeced, something I begged and pleaded that the Phillies do this off-season, even advocated that we trade Cliff Lee for him, because, you know, I’m not a heroin addict with the IQ of a vegetable who does no preparation for his job.

  11. Richard

    April 29, 2013 02:25 PM

    There is very little chance the Phillies could have gotten Upton this off-season. Now, if they’d held off on the Pence deal, maybe then they’d have had the chips…

  12. Phillie697

    April 29, 2013 02:33 PM

    @Richard,

    That was a rant more about McCarver than us getting Upton :) I swear I would enjoy having monkeys more in MLB broadcast booths than any of these clowns TV stations seem intent on hiring.

  13. Jonny5

    April 29, 2013 02:37 PM

    P697, It’s Tim McCarver. How many times does one need to prove they are a ignorant about things related to their job before you just accept it and just yell at him through the screen like I do? You’ve been primed by the worst for the worst with Wheeler. You should just accept it like the seasons coming.

  14. Phillie697

    April 29, 2013 02:40 PM

    @Jonny5,

    I hear ya, but still… That was akin to thinking that Bill Clinton is still President. That deserved extra yelling.

  15. CJ

    April 29, 2013 04:27 PM

    ONLINE PLEA

    Anyone remember back 2007/08 Phils v Mets at home and Jimmy Rollins hit a 9th inning inside-the-park HR (or triple that was misplayed) to win it?

    I am dying to find that video.

    I think they were down by 2 and it scored three runs.

    I must find it. THANKS

  16. pedro3131

    April 29, 2013 05:03 PM

    @Phillie

    “We should not have handed Kendrick $7.5M in the off-season and actually paid someone GOOD to pitch for this team.” 9may12

    “As for KK anybody that respects advanced statistics knows he stinks and has known he stinks for awhile now.” 25apr12 (this one wasn’t you just indicative of what everyone has been saying since he signed his deal)

    ” I don’t think ANYONE has projected Kendrick to be anything other than replacement level no matter what age he is.” 22feb12

    It depends what you consider “blasted” but there wasn’t really anyone defending the deal around these parts

  17. JRFarmer

    April 29, 2013 05:28 PM

    Thanks for the analysis, Bill.

    I’ve never been a Kendrick fan, but I do cheer for him when he performs well. I hope he keeps it up, you just can’t complain if he performs better than Blanton at half the price.

  18. Brempt

    April 29, 2013 11:10 PM

    Usually cannot stand to go to the game where KK falls into the season ticket package but none the less am satisfied that he is achieving a decent start into 2013. Hopefully he can keep it JAHAPPLESS as far as those numbers bloating.

  19. Ryan N

    April 29, 2013 11:48 PM

    Kendrick has spent too much of his career trying to be like other successful Phillies pitchers. His attempted reliance on his cutter seemed to coincide with Halladay joining the team. I also remember hearing about Kendrick trying to emulate Jamie Moyer’s slow pitching pace, which didn’t seem to work out for him too well either.

  20. Phillie697

    April 30, 2013 09:40 AM

    @pedro,

    I told you I thought it was a bad deal and said so. I don’t think I “blasted” RAJ for making that deal because there are plenty of other targets to blast him about. I STILL think it’s a bad deal, if only because we could have spent less to sign him, but again, it’s $3M a year so whatever savings we could have had would not have been a big amount anyway, so that’s why I don’t get worked up about it. Still a bad contract.

    As for KK, again, it’s April :) Let see by September if you still want to defend him :)

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