Q&A: Kyle Kendrick, Evolution of a Repertoire

Kyle Kendrick isn’t all that remarkable. The Philadelphia Phillies right-hander has a standard pitcher’s frame and fairly average stuff. Neither his velocity nor his repertoire particularly stands out. His numbers — in 178 career appearances; 137 of them starts — don‘t jump out at you.

But that doesn’t mean the 28-year-old isn’t an effective pitcher. Relying primarily on sinkers, changeups and control, Kendrick does what a back-of-the-rotation starter is expected to do: He keeps his team in games as often as not. Overshadowed in a rotation that features Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels — and, in recent years, Roy Halladay — he simply goes out and does his job.

Kendrick, who is 6-4, with a 3.76 ERA this year, takes the mound tonight against the Washington Nationals. He talked about the evolution of his repertoire when the Phillies visited Fenway Park in May.

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Kyle Kendrick:
“I developed my current repertoire over the years. When I got drafted, I just threw a four-seam and a slurve. In 2006, I started throwing a sinker, and two or three years ago I developed a changeup — a split-change. I added a cutter about the same time as the changeup, about two or three years ago.

“I started throwing a sinker because my four-seam wasn’t getting it done. It was straight — not enough movement — so I started messing around with grips and the ball started sinking. I was like, ‘I’ll go with that.’ I actually throw the two-seam harder than I threw the four-seam, and something that’s moving is obviously harder to hit than something straighter. It runs with a little sink. Sometimes if I open up my delivery a little bit it moves more, but most of the time it’s the same depth.

“I stopped throwing the slurve pretty much right when I got drafted. I tried to throw a slider, but just couldn’t pick it up. I throw one now, but I don’t throw it a lot. I can make my cutter bigger, so at times it’s more of a slider.

“With my cutter, it‘s just a matter of moving my fingers on the seams and how I release it. Rich Dubee, my pitching coach, showed me my cutter grip. From there, I just kept throwing it and throwing it until I got a good feel.

“I learned my changeup when I was in Triple-A, at the start of 2009. One of my teammates was Justin Lehr, and Tim Hudson had showed it to him. Basically, I got it from Lehr, who got it from Hudson. It’s just a standard split grip, across the seams. I used to throw a circle, but I have small hands, so it felt like it always slipped. I could never be consistent with it.

“There’s nothing that makes me all that unique. I have a little hitch at the top of my delivery, and maybe that’s a little different, but other than that I’m pretty ordinary. I just go out there and try to make pitches.”



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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Dean Spamoni
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Dean Spamoni
3 years 3 months ago

All the respect for Kyle Kendrick. As a Phillies fan who has traced his journey in and out of the rotation for past five years or so, Kendrick has somehow defied all expectations that he will flame out and pitched adequately and/or more than adequately at very reasonable salaries. Glad that Phils offered arbitration on him rather than DFAing him this year, and I hope that he uses his guile to have a long and respectable career.

CB
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CB
3 years 3 months ago

More of this, please. I love to read Fangraph interviews of players, the questions and the responses are both so thoughtful. Great work!

BurleighGrimes
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BurleighGrimes
3 years 3 months ago

I’ve watched Kyle Kendrick pitch a handful of times over the years, and I’ve been impressed recently with how much he’s gotten out of his relatively middling stuff. This interview is pretty cool.

GhostofMeek
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GhostofMeek
3 years 3 months ago

Big fan of Kendrick. On top of being a really humble and hard working guy, he is also willing to do whatever the club asks him to do. The Phillies have bounced him between the bullpen and the starting rotation, but there has never been a complaint from him about it that has made it to the media. (Though, like any good starter he doesn’t like being lifted from games). I personally think Kyle Kendrick is too humble. He has certainly had his ups and downs this year, but I think he has the potential to be a consistent above average starter in the MLB, that is to say a solid #3. He has three average pitches, two of which move in different directions. When he is on, he has above average control. That is a recipe for success that can be repeated.

RJackson
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RJackson
3 years 3 months ago

I’m surprised that he made it to AAA throwing basically just a 4 seamer, is that right? He didn’t have any variety of CH until then?!

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