Kyle Kendrick: The most improbable ace in baseball?

Kyle Kendrick: The most improbable ace in baseball?

May 2, 2013, 10:45 am
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The longer this goes on, the more we have to re-examine everything we’ve ever thought about Kyle Kendrick.
 
The evidence is mounting that he’s not who he used to be.

During the three-year period from 2008 through 2010, Kendrick’s ERA was 4.96, which ranked 113th of 127 pitchers in baseball who threw 300 or more innings during that span.
 
During the three years since, Kendrick’s ERA is 3.48, which is 25th-best of 86 pitchers in baseball and exactly the same as none other than Roy Halladay.
 
When Kendrick and Halladay have the same ERA since opening day 2011 you know it’s time to re-think a lot of things. About both of them.
 
On a staff of aces, Kendrick has been better than Halladay, he’s been better than Cliff Lee, and he’s been better than Cole Hamels so far this year.

“I think what you’re seeing is that Kendrick’s gotten older, he’s gotten stronger, he’s bigger and he’s in tremendous shape,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s helped make himself that way because of his work ethic.”

After a promising rookie year in 2007, Kendrick sputtered through three seasons of mediocrity. He was in and out of the rotation, he got shelled often when he did pitch, and he even was banished to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for five months in 2009.
 
Now, he’s starting to look like the most improbable ace in baseball.
 
Halladay’s 6.75 ERA is worst in baseball. Hamels isn’t much better at 4.78. Lee’s 3.46 puts him in the middle of the pack.
 
And then there’s Kendrick, with a 2.41 ERA after five starts.
 
Opposing batters are hitting .230 vs. Kendrick with a .276 on-base percentage and a .609 OPS. All put him among the top 25 pitchers in the majors month into the season and best on a staff with two Cy Young Award winners and a three-time All-Star.
 
Probably for the first time in his career, Kendrick doesn’t have to worry about being yanked from the rotation.
 
“I’m sure that he knows he’s been pitching good and has been feeling better about that,” Manuel said. “He shouldn’t worry about what’s going to happen.”
 
Going back to last August, when Manuel put him back in the rotation, Kendrick has been excellent.
 
In his last 15 starts, he’s 9-4 with a 2.42 ERA. In 12 of those 15 starts, he’s allowed two or fewer runs and pitched at least six innings.
 
Kendrick, coming off his second career complete-game shutout, will try to help the Phillies bounce back from two unsightly losses in Cleveland when he faces the Marlins Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park in the opener of a four-game series.
 
In his last four starts, Kendrick has given up just 21 hits and four earned runs in 28 innings, with 21 strikeouts and six walks.
 
“His stuff is a little bit better, he throws a little harder than he used to, things like that,” Manuel said. “His location has definitely gotten a lot better.
 
“That comes from hard work and staying at it. I think it’s helped being around some of the pitchers like Halladay, Jamie Moyer, Lee and some of those guys like that we’ve had.”
 
It wasn’t too long ago that Kendrick was a guy Manuel pitched just because he didn’t have anybody else to pitch.
 
But he’s survived, improved and now flourished. Kendrick and Hamels are the only pitchers left from the 2007 team that started the Phillies’ five-year N.L. East title run, and Kendrick is among just six players in all left from that team.
 
Kendrick is now 56-43 in his career, and over the last 100 years, only four Phillies with more than 100 starts have a higher winning percentage than Kendrick’s .566 – Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander (.695) and Steve Carlton (.600), plus Hamels (.594) and Moyer (.583).
 
“He’s picked up his tempo, he’s got rhythm, he’s got flow, and he’s got great command on his pitches,” said Ryan Howard, Kendrick’s teammate for seven seasons. “I’ve been able to watch Kyle grow as a player and mature as a pitcher and he handles himself so much better out there now.”

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