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Ian Kennedy Does Not Dig the Long Ball

Sticking with Zach Sanders’ Starting Pitcher End of Season Rankings and Diamondbacks pitchers who disappointed me during the 2012 season, we scroll on down the number 45 on the list, Ian Kennedy. Coming into the season, there figured to be be a certain degree of regression from his absolutely outstanding 2011 season, but while I was looking for a slight stumble backwards, Kennedy looked like he got shoved so hard in the chest that he fell all the way back to 2010. Just one year removed from Cy Young contention, Kennedy looks like he’s right back where he started.

OK, so I’m exaggerating for the sake of a snappy introduction. Kennedy actually maintained both his walk and strikeout rates from 2011, which was definitely encouraging, as well as a nice spike in his SwStrk% to 10.1-percent. However, we still saw a spike in his ERA and FIP thanks to a combination of a .306 BABIP and an increase in the number of home runs he allowed. His WHIP rose to 1.30 while his strand rate dropped due to the excessive number of long balls clearing the bases on him. Obviously, a number of the base runners he allowed can be attributed to bad luck, but it would seem that a tweak in his pitch mix, coupled with a very slight dip in velocity on some of those pitches, helped contribute to fewer ground balls and line drives and resulted in a a spike in fly balls with 10.8-percent of them leaving the yard.

Kennedy opted to use his curveball less and nearly cut out his slider altogether while increasing the use of his fastball and change-up, both of which saw slight losses in velocity. His pitch counts were rather high, particularly in the beginning of the year, and that may have caused some soreness in the elbow which, while not reported, could have been the reason for the change in pitch selection over the course of the year. Batters began to wait on the fastball and change-up rather than fish for the outside breaking stuff which obviously resulted in better contact, more hits and more home runs.

If there was no injury, then perhaps this step backwards that he took can be easily corrected with a better game plan to attack hitters. Unfortunately though, if all it took was a return to his pitch selection from the year before, then wouldn’t he have made that adjustment during the season? Obviously it’s strictly conjecture, but one would have to assume there was something bothering him to stop throwing the pitches that seemed to be the most effective for him in the previous season.

So where does that leave him for 2013? Well, given the fact that the three year sample size might not be the most reliable and the fluctuations from year to year could very easily settle down, I would still consider using a middle round draft choice on him. He is more than capable of pulling down that ERA while maintaining his current strikeout rates. However, I would definitely be wary of the fact that after two years in the minors that saw him throw no more than 150 innings between 2008 and 2009, three straight seasons of roughly 200-plus innings has worn on him. Perhaps a spot on your roster with intent to sell after, hopefully, a few fruitful months, would be the best course of action.