The 27-year-old Kyle Kendrick is Philadelphia’s emergency No. 6 starter who will only be pitching if one of the Phillies talented arms goes down with an injury. Earlier this offseason, Kendrick and the Phillies avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one-year deal worth $3.585 million. The Phils have now increased that amount to $3.75 million annually over two seasons, and this increase in job security and financial terms is quizzical. No pitcher who has been worth 1 WAR just once in the past five years (exactly five seasons ago, no less) deserves this kind of money, especially an emergency starter.
Last season, Kyle Kendrick was worth just 0.2 WAR in 114.2 innings of action (that many?) and once again struck out under 4.65 batters per nine innings. His 4.63 K/9 was actually higher than his career average of 4.14, and expect a 4.49 K/9 next season. Kendrick had a significant amount of luck, with a .261 BABIP that gave him a 3.22 ERA. That figure definitely flatters the man with a career 4.85 SIERA, because he had a 4.55 FIP and an xFIP that was barely higher than that (10.5% HR/FB was actually slightly lower than his career average).
Two seasons ago, Kyle Kendrick added a cutter to his repertoire and used it to replace his slider. He also decreased his fastball usage since then, and he even brought back a curveball that he used 2.7% of the time last season. While the curveball has yet to, and has never, materialized in a mercifully short sample size, the cutter improved last season, and it has complemented his change-up. Kendrick does not have a true out-pitch, and he relies on inducing grounders (career 45.6 GB%). Interestingly enough, the addition of the cutter has helped suppress his line drive rates for the past two seasons, is it just luck or something more? The third season is always the charm.
Each season for the past four years, Kendrick has been able to significantly increase his O-Swing%. In fact, it jumped from 19.4% to 30.7% in the span of those four seasons. However, hitters have also started to make more contact on those pitches, but that is to be expected. Kendrick has also limited the amount of pitches he is throwing in the strike zone, but he has also been able to increase his amount of first pitch strikes. None of these approaches have helped him generate more whiffs, but they have allowed him to induce weaker contact (BABIP has steadily decreased in the same time frame and at nearly the same rate as the plate discipline statistics listed).
Kyle Kendrick is a savvier pitcher than people give him credit for, but he has to be given his lack of natural talent. This is the same guy who can’t strike anybody out and has a career FIP of 4.95. He is legitimately one of those pitchers who can outperform their FIPs each year, and this is because of his ability to induce weaker contact than average.
In 2012, expect Kyle Kendrick to have a 0.5 WAR, because most projection systems have him achieving something around that number. A simple Marcel using three years of data has him as a 0.4 WAR pitcher, while the fans on FanGraphs are optimistic (projected 4.78 K/9) and have him producing 0.6 wins above replacement.
Next season, the Philles sixth man- if given 114 innings of work- should have a 4.24 ERA, a 4.61 FIP, a 4.49 K/9, a .286 BABIP, a 72.2 LOB%, a 2.43 BB/9, and a 1.13 HR/9.
Players worth about half a win are worth about $2.3 million, which means that the Philadelphia Phillies are giving Kyle Kendrick $1.45 million too many per year. That’s a total of $2.9 million that the Phillies have wasted on Kendrick, and this deal is not pragmatic from a financial standpoint. Kendrick has been on the Phils for a while and should be respected, but it is ridiculous to give a No. 6 starter nearly $3 million more than his market value over the course of two seasons.
While Kyle Kendrick has some value as a sixth starter for the Phillies, that value is only there if he is under a $2 million contract. He made $2.45 million last year, which is still a little too much when looking at this deal in terms of value. Still, that’s better than spending $3.75 million per year on a marginal pitcher. In order to play to this contract, Kendrick will need to be worth 0.8 WAR in 2012, and the last time he was worth that much was five years ago; as a rookie. It’s not that the Phillies shouldn’t have re-signed Kendrick, but it’s the fact that the Phillies gave him that much money that’s unsettling.
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