Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When Your Opening Day Starter is Ian Kennedy...

Ian Kennedy is a respected pitcher in that he's a total effort, competitive guy who had a good season last year. But if Ian Kennedy is your Opening Day starter, a position usually given to your team's best pitcher, then that speaks volumes of what you have for a starting rotation. Pretend Ian Kennedy is a Lego piece and you could pick him up and place him on any other team. Is he the Opening Day starter anywhere? Pittsburgh maybe? Is that what you want to be compared to?

Again, don't get the Fan wrong. The Fan has been a fan of Ian Kennedy for a long time...ever since his embarrassing start to his major league career with the Yankees. He was one of the pitchers Brian Cashman wouldn't trade (along with Phil Hughes) for Johan Santana (a smart move in retrospect). But the Yankees gave up on him and he became a part of the monster trade before the 2010 season that sent Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, Granderson to the Yankees, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Tigers. As smart as the non-trade for Santana was, when Cashman did trade Kennedy, the Yankees gave up three major league baseball players.

Ian Kennedy is at best a third or fourth guy in a rotation kind of pitcher. There is a concern about the jump in his innings pitched last year. His BABIP was extremely low causing his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) to come in at 4.33 or +.53 to his actual ERA. Kennedy has to do better at keeping the ball in the yard and for the type of pitcher he is, he has to lower his walk rate. He can probably do those things, but he's still not a top end of the rotation guy. And yet that's where the Diamondbacks have him.

The only other choice for the top end of the D-backs' rotation is Daniel Hudson. Hudson, who just turned 24 was an absolute steal for the Diamondbacks last year who traded Jackson for him and saved a bunch of money for what could be a better pitcher. Hudson went 8-2 for the Diamondbacks with an ERA of 2.45. Like Kennedy, Hudson should see some regression because his BABIP was even lower than Kennedy's and his FIP was higher than his ERA by almost a full run. But Hudson is probably a Number 2 or 3 pitcher in the slot and along with Kennedy, forms a nice young pitching core for the Diamondbacks. But neither is a staff ace, which is the point being made here.

The rest of the rotation spots aren't hopeful. There is Barry Enright, who has had some success but whose strikeout per nine rate is half of Hudson and Kennedy's. Enright just doesn't seem to have enough stuff to be a major league starter for very long. That leaves Joe Saunders, who has looked so bad this spring that he could get cut, Galarraga, who is in the same boat as Saunders, Zach Duke (same) and Aaron Heilman (same). The Fan keeps hammering you with how meaningless spring statistics are, but even from that standpoint, the Diamondbacks have the second highest team ERA in exhibition games this spring season. Only the Cubs have been worse.

So yeah, the Arizona Diamondback's rotation wouldn't be regarded as a strength of this team. And nothing points that out more than naming Ian Kennedy as your opening day starter.


Mike R. said...

Great analysis of the D'Backs' rotation. They have a solid group of arms; Kennedy and Hudson have a lot of upside.

One of my best friends, and former teammate from college, is actually their Asst. to Baseball Operations, and he agreed that Hudson could be their #1, but they want to groom Kennedy to be their ace for years to come. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with either, although I am pro-Hudson. Perhaps it's just due to my affinity for the White Sox.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Thanks, Mike. Cool about your friend. Very cool indeed.