The Effects of Suspending Ian Kennedy for 10 Games

Major League Baseball handed down suspensions as a result of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl on Tuesday night, and Ian Kennedy got the headline penalty, as he’ll be unable to pitch for 10 days after he decides to strategically drop his appeal. And, looking at the Diamondbacks schedule, that will almost certainly happen on Monday, and Kennedy will become the latest starting pitcher to be suspended by MLB without actually being punished in any real way.

Here’s how this is likely to work. Kennedy is scheduled to start for the Diamondbacks against the Padres on Sunday. If I was a betting man, I’d be wagering on an appeal that allows him to make that start, then he’ll inform the league he’s dropping it immediately following that outing, so the suspension will begin on Monday when the Diamondbacks begin their three game series against the Marlins. He wouldn’t have pitched in any of those games anyway, so there’s no real loss there.

Then, on Thursday, the Diamondbacks have a day off, which will allow them to roll their rotation over and just skip Kennedy’s spot in the rotation for their weekend series against the Reds. And then they have another day off following that series, so the rotation shuffling gets even easier. Here’s a look at how Arizona could handle their rotation during Kennedy’s absence:

6/17: Patrick Corbin
6/18: Tyler Skaggs Josh Collmenter
6/19: Trevor Cahill
6/21: Wade Miley
6/22: Patrick Corbin
6/23: Josh Collmenter
6/25: Trevor Cahill
6/26: Wade Miley
6/27: Patrick Corbin
6/28: Josh Collmenter

The original version of this post had Tyler Skaggs in the spot replacing Brandon McCarthy, but he’s been shipped back to Reno and will apparently be replaced by Josh Collmenter in the rotation. The point remains the same, though.

Thanks to the two off days, the Diamondbacks have a nice little 10 game stretch coming where they don’t need a #5 starter; they can throw 10 straight games with their current four starters on regular rest, and then bring Kennedy back on the 29th to make a start when they actually need an arm to take the hill.

Some suspension. There is some cost here, as they could have otherwise given each starter a slight break and let their hurlers go on five days rest, but pitching their normal starters on regular rest in mid-June isn’t exactly a heavy tax. The suspension isn’t completely toothless, but it is about as ineffective as any 10 game suspension could possibly be. Kennedy will miss one start, but the Diamondbacks will barely notice, as they timed drop of the appeal will allow them to simply cover that start by eliminating a rotation spot for 10 days.

MLB has been handing out these useless starting pitcher suspensions forever, so maybe they’re just okay with this, and they don’t really want to put a burden on a team whose pitcher throws at another hitter’s head. But, these lame suspensions that don’t actually do anything are one of the main reasons people still throw at each other. If MLB actually wants to get rid of headhunting, they need to change the way starting pitchers are penalized.

The easiest fix would probably be to take away the right to drop the appeal after it is filed for. If you get suspended and decide you want to fight it, great, you’re fighting it. You do not get to say “just kidding” when it becomes convenient for your team to give you a few days off. Make the decision to appeal binding, and force players to decide whether they actually want to argue their case and serve a suspension at a time of MLB’s choosing.

The other option is to just drastically increase the length of suspensions for starting pitchers in order to account for the number of normal days off those suspensions cover anyway; at 15 or 20 games, all of the sudden there’s no real way to just play with the schedule so that the penalty has little or no effect. If a pitcher is faced with actually missing several starts, and teams will have to call someone up from the minors to make the suspended pitcher’s starts, then you’ll see fewer fastballs aimed at opposing hitter’s heads. Until then, these suspensions will continue to be nothing more than P.R.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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schlomsd
Member
schlomsd

It appears that you are arguing for a greater suspension because of “intent” – Kennedy was throwing at Greinke’s head. Leaving out the fact that Greinke was hit in the shoulder, how exactly is MLB supposed to judge intent? It’s certainly possible that Kennedy was not even trying to hit Greinke (although that’s unlikely) and was just a pitch that got away like the one that hit Puig earlier. It’s also certainly possible that Greinke was the one headhunting when he went after Montero but he simply missed with his location. But I’m not sure there is any way for MLB to correctly perceive intent.

juan pierres mustache
Member
Member

they already have to judge intent in every one of these cases

Beasy Bee
Guest
Beasy Bee

No, I don’t think he’s arguing that. Many people think Kennedy had intent for the head. Most importantly, the MLB, who said as much and levied the 10 game suspension. All Dave’s saying is that 10 games for a SP, especially given this scenario, is not much of a punishment.

Perry
Guest
Perry

Oh man, are you serious? If Grienke had not have reacted to where the pitch was going, it would have nailed him in the head. He lurched up to take it on the shoulder so as to not get hit in the head. Intent here is pretty simple, at least to me. If your catcher sets up way inside, as Montero did with Puig, than you intend to throw the pitch far enough inside to either back the hitter off the plate or hit him. Intention with Puig wasn’t to specifically hit him in the head, it was to come inside enough to intimidate him. That was the plan. It’s fine, it’s baseball and backing hitters off the plate is something that happens all the time, but the pitcher INTENDS to do so. If Montero was set up middle-away and the ball just got away from Kennedy, that would be a totally different thing. The predictable result of the ball hitting Puig occurred because the Diamonbacks intended to throw inside to him. I don’t see how there’s any argument to the contrary. Look where Montero is on the pitch. Kennedy should also be able to hit the target, he’s a frigging professional pitcher. If you make a mistake on a purpose pitch, you’re gonna have to pay the price the next inning when one of your (D-Backs) hitters is up. Been that way in baseball a long, long time.

chief00
Guest
chief00

His 28 walks, 8 hit batters, and 5 wild pitches in 78.2 IP mitigate any firm conclusions about his intent.

If this went to ‘trial’, any lawyer worth his salt would argue on that basis and get the punishment dropped to 4 games. In other words, he wouldn’t miss a turn in the rotation. Now we’re back to Mr. Cameron’s original point about the laughability of his suspension, and his strategic use of the ‘appeals process’.

atoms
Guest
atoms

Maybe he hits a lot of guys because he likes hitting guys? Also, his walk rate is higher than average, but there are a good 26-27 starters in MLB that have worse ones, even significantly worse ones.

atoms
Guest
atoms

(and apart from Justin Masterson, none of those guys have hit as many batters as Kennedy over the past few years, it’s worth noting)

chief00
Guest
chief00

@atoms: He has HBP Syndrome with batteropathic tendencies. In other words, he can’t help but throw at batters because he enjoys it. The catcher calls for a pitch at the knees, and he takes it literally. Ultimately, he’s not responsible. ;)

Dave
Guest
Dave

Not every pitcher is Greg Maddox. I really think he just missed his spot coming in on Puig.

Kennedy started the Puig AB missing in with a fastball and it was more likely that was the purpose pitch than the one he hit him with. 0-0 miss FB inside. 1-0 front door curve over the plate (slight buckle by Puig probably helped out by the miss inside on the previous pitch). 1-1 change up down that caught too much plate and was fouled off. Classic tilt pitch sequence – start hard in, then work soft and preferably down and out to get the hitter leaning forward and over the plate – then bust him inside with a fastball up in the zone to put him away either swinging, looking, or with weak contact. It got away. Kennedy was choked he hit a guy with a 1-2 count. Montero was inside but he looks a lot further inside than he actually is because of the camera angle.

steve-o
Guest
steve-o

None of them are Maddox.

MidwestIsTheBest
Guest
MidwestIsTheBest

Some insurance salesman, however, ARE Greg Maddox:

http://insurance-agency.amfam.com/IN/gregory-maddox/

adam lind
Guest
adam lind

e stults might be the new maddux

Mike
Guest
Mike

Just don’t judge intent. You can reasonable try to judge whether the pitcher was trying to hit the batter; MLB already does this. If the ball goes towards the batter’s head in one of those instances, it should be an automatic increase in the suspension. If you commit a robbery and someone dies, you get charged with murder. It’s the same principle.

15-20 games, I see as still being too lite. With very few exceptions, throwing a baseball 90 mph at someones head is the most violent thing that ever occurs during a game. The repercussions of this could be and have been extremely serious. The fact that it’s often laughed off as “part of the game” is fucking insane and a goal of MLB should be to eradicate the act and that sentiment. 50 game suspensions for pitchers deemed to be intentionally throwing at a batter and whose pitch was towards the batters head should accomplish that.

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