The incredible stretch of success achieved by the Phillies from 2007-2011 treated Phillies fans to five consecutive division titles, two World Series appearances, and, of course, the 2008 championship. This historic string of domination created many pitching heroes and legends who will live on in Philadelphia sports lore forevermore from Cole Hamels to Cliff Lee to Jamie Moyer. Since 2007 the most innings logged by a Phillies pitcher is, unsurprisingly, Cole Hamels’ 1249 1/3, but second on that list is the most unheralded member of this incredible run of Phillies domination: Kyle Kendrick who has logged 757 2/3 innings of his own.
Despite pitching the 2nd most innings for the Phillies over the past 6 seasons — a stretch in which the Phillies have played 46 postseason games — Kendrick has made only one postseason appearance. He started game 2 of the 2007 NLDS, pitched 3 2/3 innings and was lifted with the bases loaded for Kyle Lohse and Kaz Matsui to do that thing they did. While playing regularly for one of the best postseason teams of the past decade or so, Kendrick tasted the postseason atmosphere from the mound just once. Incredible.
Kendrick showed up on the scene in 2007 with a solid rookie campaign (10-4, 3.87 ERA) that propelled him to 5th in that year’s Rookie of the Year voting in a remarkably strong year for NL rookies (finishing above Kendrick were Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Hunter Pence and Chris Young). After his 2007 season, expectations were unjustly high for a 23-year old pitcher who only had two pitches: a fastball and a slider. Unsurprisingly, the league adjusted and his sophomore campaign in 2008 was easily his worst season to date (11-9, 5.49 ERA).
Kendrick spent most of the 2009 season in AAA in order to continue to develop his repertoire of pitches because, as he learned the hard way, two pitches are not enough to succeed as a starter at the major league level. Since his full time return to the majors in 2010, Kendrick has added an impressive cutter to his arsenal and developed his change up into a pitch he can rely on. The adjustments and improvements he’s made have translated to success on the mound.
Take a look at Kendrick’s major league seasons since his unsustainable success as a rookie:
- 2008: 5.49 ERA 5.55 FIP 9.4 K%
- 2010: 4.73 ERA 4.88 FIP 10.9 K%
- 2011: 3.22 ERA 4.55 FIP 12.3 K%
- 2012: 3.90 ERA 4.32 FIP 17.2 K%
He has improved every single season which, more than likely, is a byproduct of hard work and dedication to his craft. The most intriguing development for Kendrick is the jump in his K% last year. It coincided with a notable increase in usage of his change up which he used 22.9% of the time after a previous high mark was 15.5%. If he maintains a high K% rate in 2013, it could very well mean good things for his ability to succeed this season and beyond.
Over the past two seasons, while solidifying his four pitch repertoire, Kendrick has been yo-yo’ed back and forth between the rotation appearing in 31 games as a reliever and 40 as a starter. No one else in Major League Baseball has 30+ games in relief and 40+ as a starter from 2011-12.
Kendrick’s narrative is one that Philadelphia sports fans typically rally behind. He came up to the majors and found initial success, but struggled when the league adjusted to him. He spent 2009 in the minors learning how to pitch at the most elite level and since his 2010 return has improved in every season. And he’s done all of this while not getting regular playing time due to the continual addition of elite starting pitchers to the roster.
Through it all, his successes, his struggles, his lack of a defined role, his exclusion from postseason rosters, Kyle Kendrick has been the utmost professional. There’s been no drama, no cries for respect or appreciation, he is the epitome of the blue collar player that Philadelphia so cherishes.
It’s time to get on board and pull for Kyle Kendrick starting at 4:05 this afternoon.