FanGraphs Scouting: Ian Kennedy

Yeah, it’s only been one start, but I want to talk up Ian Kennedy… something I’ve actually been doing since he was traded from the New York Yankees to the Arizona Diamondbacks this past off-season.

The right-handed Kennedy made his National League debut on Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres in Arizona. He gave up three runs (all in the second inning on a three-run homer to Scott Hairston) and six hits but showed big-league stuff by striking out eight batters. The key for Kennedy is clear: command the fastball. With a fastball in the 86-91 mph range, it sat right around 87-89 mph on Wednesday night. The majority of his eight strikeouts came on change-ups (four), followed by fastballs (three) and a curveball (one). This is encouraging because it shows that Kennedy had two out-pitches going on the night, which will really help him given his average fastball velocity.

The bulk of his six hits allowed came on the fastball (four). Kennedy has thrown a slider in the past but I did not see much of one against the Padres; he utilized a fourth pitch, but it looked to be more of a cutter, which caused a number of lazy fly balls. In this game, his control looked better than his command and he was consistently around the strike zone.

There are certainly some things to work on for his next start, which will likely come against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ powerful, yet youthful, lineup. Along with improving his fastball command, it would be nice to see Kennedy induce some more ground balls, and also be more economical with his pitches; He had thrown 82 (68% for strikes) after just four innings and finished with 94 pitches thrown. Fittingly, his final out of the game came on a strikeout of another promising, young player in Kyle Blanks.

Kennedy was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning with the D-Backs trailing 3-1 in the game. It turned out to be a smart move, as pinch-hitter Rusty Ryal singled for Kennedy and later scored in the inning. The D-Backs tied the game up in the fifth and stormed back to win the game 5-3. FYI: Ryal hit was an opposite-field single, and the rookie had an impressive pinch-hit at-bat.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

17 Responses to “FanGraphs Scouting: Ian Kennedy”

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  1. DFT says:

    Wasn’t Kennedy traded in the Granderson deal? Vasquez came from Atlanta

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  2. marc hulet says:

    You’re right. Added that last minute late at night and had a brain fart… will get it removed. Thanks for that.

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  3. Ben says:

    I hate to be that guy, but fact checking and proof-reading are your friends.

    “(in the Javier Vazquez deal)” No.

    “The majority of his eight strikeouts came on change-ups (four), followed by fastballs (three) and change-ups (one).” Whoops.

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  4. Resolution says:

    Hey Marc, can you clarify what the distinction is between command and control?

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  5. AndyS says:

    “change-ups (four), followed by fastballs (three) and change-ups (one). ”


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  6. Resolution says:

    Hey everyone, so I checked out Kennedy’s pitchFX from the game. He was classified as throwing a fastball, a changeup, a slider, and a curve. Since there were many more curves than sliders (and the article adding that Kennedy doesn’t throw his slider much), that mysterious last strikeout was probably on a curve…

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    • Mike K. says:

      I saw Kennedy pitch several times in AAA, and I don’t remember him throwing a slider. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t, but he’s definitely a FB/CB/changeup pitcher. In AAA also he was able to get the radar gun up to 94 on occasion, but that was before his surgery. And of course I can’t vouch for how accurate the gun is/was.

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      • jscape2000 says:

        When I was following Kennedy, I remember him talking about how he threw everything. For a guy with a fringe fastball, anything that works is an asset.

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  7. Rob in CT says:

    Yankees fan here. I don’t recall IPK throwing a slider. I recall fastball, curveball, changeup. Maybe he’s added a cutter (which is sorta like a cross between a fastball and a slider, isn’t it?). I liked him, and wish him well. I have a soft spot for small righties w/o great stuff. Those guys have to PITCH, or they won’t last in the majors.

    I think he can be an effective major league pitcher, but command is certainly key. With the Yankees, he struggled at times because major leaguers won’t swing at borderline pitches off the plate he must have gotten minor leaguers to swing at. His BB rate got unacceptably high. The NL should help, though his home park and his fly-ball tendencies may cancel some of that out.

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  8. LibertyBoy says:

    The term “Control pitchers” means they need to spot precisely because they do not have overpowering stuff. “Command” is simply the ability (could be a game-to-game thing) to make a pitch do what you want it to, whether it’s a ball or strike takes a back seat to whether or not the pitch is employed effectively. It’s all about pitch sequence and hitting spots and dictating to the batter. These pitches might not finish in the strike zone, but are effective nonetheless if the pitcher has “command” over them. Subtle, grey area there that might depend on who you talk to or who you are talking about. Some pitchers are most in “command” when they seem completely out of control, btw.

    At the time the Yanks brought IK up to the bigs, the Yanks had a master of “pitching” in Mike Mussina, who, the rationale was, might rub off on the youngster. Moose built a 270+ win career on staying in the black, mixing speeds by addition and subtraction, and, his talents in those depts grew with age. The tutelage didn’t quite happen for whatever reason, perhaps one being that ol’ Mike had so many different pitches by that time that he was probably more a student himself. Also, Moose didn’t seem to have a need to mentor anyone at that level. Believe he’s a high school coach out in Penn.

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