Game 144, Rockies at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Kyle Kendrick, 1:10pm
Sort all pitchers who’ve logged at least 100 innings by FIP, and Kyle Kendrick comes in dead last, #125 of 125 pitchers. Only 5 guys have made at least 20 starts and posted a FIP starting with a 5. Kendrick isn’t among them, because his 6.16 mark if off the scale. To make matters worse, his ERA has actually been worse than his FIP, thanks to a so-so BABIP and struggles with men on base. His fangraphs page is a charnel house; a HR/9 that starts with a 2, a K% under 12, RA/9 WAR and fWAR solidly in negative territory.
Enough of that, though. Kendrick is a graduate of Mt. Vernon high up in Skagit County, a school that also produced one of my favorite low-K, high-HR survivors, Mark Hendrickson. Hendrickson pitched in a slightly different era, but had a similar game: very low K%, low walk totals, and the HRs that came as an expected by-product of that approach coupled with high fly ball rates. You can say that Hendrickson pulled it off while Kendrick hasn’t, but that’s the thing: up until this year, Kendrick had too. Kendrick came to Colorado with a bad FIP, but a surprisingly good ERA and a solid W/L record. Sabermetric fans saw Kendrick-in-Colorado as a disaster waiting to happen, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he logged a lot of innings in a reasonably tough place to pitch and came out bruised by unbowed.
Maybe the point is that, despite the constant tinkering, not all adjustments work, or at least, they don’t work everywhere. Kendrick already ditched his four-seamer for a sinker, and he’s played around with a curve ball as well to complement his cutter and splitter. Kendrick could make MORE adjustments, of course, but you don’t get to the big leagues by changing everything about your game because you struggle. Kendrick probably still believes in his stuff – I just think what he believes about Coors Field couldn’t be printed in a newspaper. Kendrick’s 2015 is one of the worst seasons we’ve seen in recent memory. No one’s thrown over 120 IP with a FIP starting with a 6 in over a decade: broken Scott Kazmir, Jose Lima’s disastrous 2005 – they got close, but couldn’t touch Kendrick’s mark. Sure, the run environment changes the FIP constant, but it just shows how out of step Kendrick is with MLB starters in 2015. And yet, he’ll be back. He’ll still throw 89, and his splitter won’t sink enough, but he’ll believe that his luck is gonna change. I hope it does next year. Just not today.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Trumbo, LF
6: Smith, RF
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Miller, CF
9: Baron, C
Welcome back, James. I remember when he first got hurt, “at least it’s just a finger injury.” Several months and another lost season later, he’s finally back from that strain. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, and he’ll be fine for next year, but his injury history is pretty lengthy now.