Before the 2013 season began, many baseball pundits believed that Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay would be the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation. Few, if any would have selected Kyle Kendrick for that role.
Based on statistics going into Thursday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, that ‘s exactly where Kendrick finds himself. This from a guy who, in the recent past, has been shuffled so often between relievers in the bullpen and starters in the dugout he couldn’t remember if a stretch or windup position was most appropriate.
Kendrick is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA to lead the other starters. Although he’s given up 42 hits in 47.2 innings, he’s also struck out 35. As for home runs allowed, Kendrick is tied with Lee for the least number at four, far behind the nine and seven allowed by Halladay and Hamels respectively.
The statistics tell an obvious story of Kendrick’s effectiveness. What they don’t tell is the impact his solid pitching has made on the team. No longer considered a fifth wheel, or fourth as the case may be, he is now viewed as a major cog in the Phillies’ pitching strategy.
What’s the difference in Kendrick compared to previous years? Chase Utley believes it’s his composure on the mound in tight situations. One can almost see the determination coupled with steely-eyed serenity exuding from under his cap.
Some of his success is related to the low home run total he’s allowed. Kendrick’s propensity for giving up round trippers has been almost non-existent, and he’s walked fewer batters, thereby limiting the damage free passes can inflict on a team.
Since coming in fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007 with a 10-4 record and 3.87 ERA in 20 starts, Kendrick is showing the promise that earned him that recognition. Only time will tell if he can continue his solid start this year, but for now, he’s getting the job done.
The Phillies will need to find someone to fill the large gap caused by Halladay’s departure to the disabled list. Likewise, Hamels must get back on track if the Phillies are to have a winning record.
In Kendrick, we can all rest easy for the time being. He’s definitely an unexpected bright spot in the Phils starting rotation.