Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Six things you might not know about Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy had some real pretty numbers in 2011 and some less pretty numbers in 2012. Even so, Kennedy's 2012 season ended on a high note and he finished at 15-12 to give him a two year win-loss record of 36-16, which again looks very pretty. Those 36 wins are the fourth most in baseball over those two combined season. But, of course, we all know that the win-loss statistic is not very favored these days in the analytic community. And for the most part, that is the correct call. As such, Ian Kennedy is not really considered to be an elite pitcher and nobody's list of the ten or twenty best pitchers in baseball would include him.

But there are some things you may not know about Ian Kennedy and you should. Some of them defend his lack of elite status and some fly in the face of it. Here, then is a list of things you probably did not know about Ian Kennedy's pitching.

1. Most of the batted balls off of Ian Kennedy are fly balls. Kennedy's ground ball percentage over the last three seasons has been 37.7 percent. Only thirteen other starters over that three-year time period have had a lower ground ball percentage. And this is despite increasing the number of two-seam fastballs he throws.

The belief here is that this statistic is the difference between his 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks had the fourth best fielding runs saved from their left fielders and the best fielding runs saved in center field. Garardo Parra was terrific in left and Chris Young was terrific in center. In 2011, Ian Kennedy's BABIP on fly balls was .110 and .730 on line drives. In 2012, Jason Kubel played left field most of the season and Chris Young missed more than 30% of the season. In 2012, Kennedy's BABIP on fly balls was .162 and .784 on line drives. The Diamondbacks went from seventh in overall defensive efficiency in 2011 to 23th in 2012.

2. Ian Kennedy has been really durable. Kennedy has made 98 starts over the last three seasons, tied for seventh in all of baseball over that span. He has been a rock in the Diamondback's rotation.

3. Ian Kennedy is a strike throwing machine. Only five pitchers have thrown more strikes than Ian Kennedy in the last two seasons combined. In that same time period, he is tied for eighth in first pitch strike percentage. He was seventh over those two seasons for most pitches seen in the strike zone. And most people do not consider Kennedy a strikeout pitcher, but his 8.05 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two seasons is more than respectable. His strikeout to walk ratio has been 17th best among starters when you combine the last two seasons. And it is better than David Price and Matt Cain over that time period.

4. Despite his control, he is fifth in baseball in hitting batters over the past two seasons.

5. His five balks over the last two seasons are the second most in baseball. That's weird.

6. Ian Kennedy does not have a dominant pitch. That's right, everything he throws is rather ordinary. None of his pitches: fastball, curve, change up and slider have finished in the top thirty for pitch value over the past two seasons. There is not one pitch you can point to and say, "that is why Ian Kennedy is successful."

There you have it, six things you might not have known about Ian Kennedy. This observer has a real soft spot for him, so the perspective here is that he is a better pitcher than people think. But the numbers give mixed reviews. The best things he does are throw strikes and take the ball every fifth day. And he certainly wins a lot. The fact that he does not have a dominant pitch and has had a higher FIP than ERA the last two seasons tend to show that perhaps he isn't as good as this man-crush warrants. But what the heck, right? The heart goes where it will.

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