This season, despite losing Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks currently find themselves tied for first place in the NL West at 20-15. One would expect that this success stems from their great, young pitching staff. They would be mostly correct; however, supposed ace Ian Kennedy has vastly underperformed this season. Two seasons removed from a year which saw him finish 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA, tally 198 strikeouts and come in fourth in Cy Young Award voting, Kennedy currently finds himself 1-3 with a 5.19 ERA, a WHIP of 1.34 and the highest walks per nine innings rate of his tenure in Arizona.
But what is wrong with Kennedy? That is tough to pin down. His fastball velocity has remained relatively stable (90.3 in 2011, 90.0 in 2013), but he has had more trouble locating it. Whereas his walk percentage in at-bats with fastballs thrown in them was 6.9% in 2011 and 6.5% in 2012, this season it sits at 10.6%. What is even more concerning is his strikeout percentage has fallen off a cliff on fastballs, going from 20.5% in 2011 and 17.6% in 2012 to just 8.6% in 2013. This adds up to a horrific 1.25 walks per strikeout on fastballs.
Though Kennedy was never a strikeout artist per se, his more than eight strikeouts per nine innings is considered above average. This season, Kennedy’s 6.85 strikeouts per nine innings is considered below average. Additionally, Kennedy is giving up home runs at the highest rate of his career. This season, he is giving up 1.25 home runs per nine innings, almost a half a home run more per nine innings than in 2011 when he gave up 0.77 home runs per nine innings.
When you add together the lowest strikeout rate, the highest walk rate and the most home runs per nine innings, it makes sense that Kennedy is struggling; however, he is going to need to start pitching better if the Diamondbacks want to continue their winning ways. Kennedy gets a chance to redeem himself against the Philadelphia Phillies tonight as he goes against Tyler Cloyd. Cloyd is making his first start of the season after being called up in the wake of Roy Halladay‘s injury. The first pitch is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. Eastern from Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.