There’s really nothing flashy about Kyle Kendrick and he’s been more headache than joy during his six years in Philadelphia. But he’s quietly evolved into a solid enough starting pitcher and his stats over the past two seasons show he deserves to be the fifth starter on this ballclub.
The Philadelphia Phillies signed Kendrick to a one-year deal this past offseason then tore that one up and gave him a two-year, $7.5 million extension that keeps him in Philly through the end of 2013. It’s a lot of money to pay for a guy the team was planning to use as a middle reliever and spot starter, if necessary.
As they expected though, someone in the rotation got hurt – Roy Halladay missed extensive time due to injury, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley each had a stint on the DL (and now Worley is done for the season), and the Phillies ended up shipping off Joe Blanton to L.A. shortly after the trade deadline.
That pushed Kendrick into a role as a starter, and after beginning the season with a 5.35 ERA that he carried into July, Kendrick really settled down and has in fact, thrived since then. In 69.2 innings since July 1, Kendrick is 7-3 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s held opponents to a .212 batting average and .595 OPS (compare those numbers to the season marks of Cole Hamels: .235 batting average and .663 OPS allowed).
That is not at all to suggest that Kendrick is better than Hamels but simply to offer a comparison of just how well Kendrick has been pitching. He’s excelled as both a starter and a reliever. Three times Kendrick has pitched at least seven innings without giving up a single run as a starter. And as a reliever, he’s pitched a scoreless outing in his last seven trips to the mound.
Since 2011, Kendrick has a 3.62 ERA in 258.1 innings pitched for the Phillies, and he’s fashioned a solid enough 2.19 strikeout to walk ratio. That earned run average ranks 20th among the 50 NL pitchers to have thrown at least 250 innings since ’11, higher than notable pitchers such as Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, and Ryan Dempster.
Going out and adding a fifth starter through free agency means Kendrick would be a middle/long reliever out of the ‘pen, and that’s way too much money to pay him for that role. It makes sense to put Kendrick in the rotation and then should someone in the rotation suffer an injury, the Phillies have Tyler Cloyd waiting in Triple-A.