Kendrick emerging as an elite SP, not just a good story

Kendrick emerging as an elite SP, not just a good story

May 8, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Kyle Kendrick is 11-4 with a 2.44 ERA in his last 17 starts. (USA Today Images)

At some point in the last year, Kyle Kendrick and Roy Halladay must have switched bodies. It’s the only way to explain how Kendrick not only improved, but turned into one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

That’s not hyperbole. Over the last 9-12 months, Kendrick has been more than just a good story, more than just the Phillies’ ace ... he’s been one of the top five pitchers in the sport.

Since Aug. 14, 2012, Kendrick has made 17 starts. He’s 11-4 with a 2.44 ERA. Over that span, the only pitcher in baseball with a lower ERA in as many starts is Kendrick’s teammate, Cliff Lee (2.39).

Want to extend it further? Over the last calendar year -– May 8, 2012 to May 8, 2013 –- Kendrick has a 3.39 ERA. That’s lower than the ERAs of Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Adam Wainwright -- three $100 million pitchers.

It’s lower than the ERAs of Gio Gonzalez, Jake Peavy, Yovani Gallardo, Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson and Yu Darvish.

The results are staggering. The process explains them.

Kendrick’s groundball rate is up to 47.2 percent, the highest it’s been in any season in which he made more than two starts. He’s struck out 18.1 percent of the batters he’s faced, also a career-high.

It’s not some one-year aberration. Kendrick’s repertoire has drastically changed since he first came up.

His first two years, Kendrick was a four-seam fastball/slider guy. In 2009 he barely pitched. In 2010 he scrapped the slider and became a sinker-cutter-changeup pitcher. But it took a little while for Kendrick to fine-tune those two secondary pitches.

By 2012 Kendrick felt confident enough in the changeup to go from throwing it 15 percent of the time to 25 percent. The cutter continued to develop. The two-seamer continued to sink.

Finally, he was able to retire left-handed batters.

From 2007-11, lefties hit .306 off Kendrick. Since the start of 2012 they’ve hit .234.

New arsenal. New guy. The league has had a year to figure out the new Kyle Kendrick and it hasn’t.

The two-year, $7.5 million extension Kendrick was given last February that many looked at with confusion? Looks like a bargain now. Kendrick won’t reach free agency until after the 2014 season, if the Phillies let him get there at all.

Statistics from Fangraphs.com and BrooksBaseball.net were used in this report.