Kyle Kendrick takes a lot of heat from Phillies fans.
In fact, he probably has the highest criticism-to-praise ratio of any Phillie. Fans complain about Ryan Howards strikeouts and Jimmy Rollins popups, but thats more along the lines of belly-aching about a relative. A Phillies fan can make those comments, but if an outsider does, the Phillies fan will always be quick to defend Howard or Rollins.
With Kendrick? Not so much. The closer you look at his track record, though, the less warranted that criticism-to-praise ratio becomes.
Consider that seven of Kendricks 15 starts last season were very good. In one-third of his starts, he went six or more innings and gave up two or fewer runs. The other two starts were classifying as very good were five-inning outings of zero and one runs.
In four more starts, Kendrick was OK. Two of those were three-earned run outings of 5 23 and 6 13 innings. Another was a game in which he allowed three runs but only one earned over five innings. The other was a scoreless three-inning start.
That leaves just four disaster starts. In those games, Kendrick allowed 21 runs (17 earned) in 18 innings.
A boom-bust fifth (or sixth) starter can be valuable, especially when there are more booms than busts.
Kendrick has made two starts this season. One was a disaster (seven runs on 11 hits over three innings) and one was very good (two earned runs over six innings).
So since the start of 2011, here is the breakdown of Kendricks 17 starts:
Very good 8
Over the last one-plus seasons, 47 percent of Kendricks starts have been games the Phillies should have won. They went 5-3. Maybe if the Phils were 8-0 in those starts, more people would notice that hes been pretty effective since adding a cutter to his repertoire.
Kendricks main problem from 2007-10 was an inability to retire lefties. They hit .320 off him. Then he added a cutter that dives in to jam lefthanded batters, and they hit .234 last season.
Hell still struggle at times and lefty-heavy lineups will give Kendrick problems he still walks about as many lefties as he strikes out but there are no longer as many negatives surrounding Kendrick as positives.
There figure to be four lefthanded batters in the Nationals lineup Friday night. Wed expect Chad Tracy to start at first base in place of the ailing Adam LaRoche (oblique, expected to miss a few days), switch-hitting Steve Lombardozzi to fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder, DL), Rick Ankiel to play center field and, of course, Bryce Harper in left.
Kendrick opposes Stephen Strasburg Friday night. Strasburg is unquestionably the better pitcher. He's lived up to the hype, shown incredible command of the strike zone and has several unhittable pitches.
But Kendrick doesn't face Strasburg, he faces a Nationals lineup that is missing its three best hitters and has scored 14 runs over its last seven games. And Strasburg faces a Phillies team that is batting confidently, scoring 21 runs in three games against Atlanta's strong rotation and bullpen.
Kendrick jokingly called his matchup with Strasburg a battle of aces.
That comment likely first evokes a smirk or cackle. But Kendricks last 17 starts show that theres a near 50-50 chance it actually turns out that way.
E-mail Corey Seidman at email@example.com