Ian Kennedy was on top of the world in 2011 as he won 21 games, had a 2.88 ERA and struck out 198 batters. It's been all downhill since. Kennedy won 15 games with 187 Ks in 2012, but those numbers were accompanied by a 4.02 ERA and 1.30 WHIP leaving him as a positive in the fantasy game but not a plus. In 2013 he was just a negative. He won only seven games, a four year low. He threw 181.1 innings, a four year low. He posted a 4.91 ERA, a four year high. He had a 1.40 WHIP, a four year high. He had a 2.33 K/BB ratio, a four year low. So with all the negativity in his performance is there anything we can hang the ole' hat on in terms of positivity heading into 2014? I think we can find a few things.
The first positive with Kennedy is that he's durable. He's thrown 180 or more innings in each of the past four years. Only 23 others have done that.
Kennedy is a solid strikeout arm. Not only is he solid, he's also extremely consistent. In 2010 he had a 7.79 K/9 mark. The last three years the mark has been between 8.03 and 8.09 each season. That's a remarkable run of consistency the past three years. Given the innings, and the strikeout rate, he's had at least 163 Ks each of the past four years with a four year average of 179 punchouts a season. Only 14 hurlers have at least 163 Ks each of the past four years.
He will pitch his home games in San Diego in 2014. That's a huge key for Kennedy. Why? He's a completely flyball centric arm, so he needs the ball park to help him to keep the ball in the field of play. For his career Kennedy has a 0.90 GB/FB ratio. The last four years the mark has been between 0.84 and 0.99. He's below the league average in this respect, an as such he is always going to be prone to the big fly which can been seen in the fact that three of the past four years his HR/9 mark has been at least 1.21. Last season the mark was a career worst at 1.34 which is high even for Kennedy (career 1.10), as his HR/F ratio was a career worst 13.2 percent (career 10.1 percent). The number should regress in 2014, but even more important is the move from Arizona to San Diego. Last season, according to Park Factors, Chase Field in Phoenix was pretty neutral at allowing the homer, the stadium was 16th, while Petco was shockingly 17th, only one spot better. Amazing how close they were given the perception that is out there, but we know the truth despite what 2013 showed us. Petco is undoubtedly a better place to pitch, and the park does favor pitchers (in 2012 Petco was 28th while Arizona was 6th in homers according to Park Factors). The move to San Diego helps, and that was reflected in his work over eight starts there last season (4-2, 3.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP with 53 Ks in 47 innings).
The biggest key for Kennedy in 2014 might be limiting the free pass. With all the consistency he's showing the past few years, it was shocking to see his walk rate spike so drastically in '13. After posting BB/9 marks of 2.23 and 2.38 in 2011-12, what the heck happened last season with that 3.62 rate? Kennedy threw his fastball four percent fewer than he did in 2011-12 as he threw more change ups than ever before. Perhaps that was part of it. It's also true that he had a four year low in his first pitch strike percentage so he wasn't ahead of batters quite as much in the past. Whatever, the reason, he needs to lop off a batter per nine from the rate and get back to his 2011-12 levels if he hopes to turn around his performance.
In Kennedy we have a durable righty, who strikes a lot of batters out, and pitches in a favorable home park. We also have a scenario in which, due to his down effort last season, that his draft day cost will most likely be muted. Kennedy isn't elite. Kennedy shouldn't be looked at as the guy who dominated in 2011. Clearly though he's better than he showed last season and still has the makings of a potential SP4 type in mixed leagues if he cuts down the homers and the free passes.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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