The Phillies wrapped up their west coast trip with an impressive 9th inning and subsequent two games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The bats came alive which allowed Phillies fans to sit back and blow up the twitterverse with #GoDbacks. (I was fairly amused reading all of the tweets as well. If you think of any, drop them in the comments section and I'll post the best ones Sunday).
The Phils showed some improved offensive ability in the desert in the final two games of the series, backing impressive performances from both Vance Worley and Cole Hamels. Including the 9th inning of Monday’s game, the Phillies were hitting. Hunter Pence, Lance Nix, and Shane Victorino (2) all cleared the fences. Pete Orr had his first career 3 RBI game and they plated 5 men in a single inning. They had 13 extra base hits and four 2-out RBI’s in the series. Oh, and Jonathan Papelbon also saved his 6th game of the year.
All was not right with the world however, as Kyle Kendrick was roughed up in his start Monday This was very odd for a number of reasons. Kyle was impressive in spring training this year, only allowing 2 runs in 10.2 innings pitched. I realize spring training is not a great indicator of how a season will go for a particular player, but Kendrick had a great 2011, finishing up with a 3.32 ERA in 114.2 innings pitched. He was pretty consistent throughout the year and, statistically speaking, April of last year was his best month. Kyle started a total of 15 games last year, and in those starts, he was 5-4 with a 3.14 ERA.
One thing we know about Kendrick is that he has always been defined to Phillies fans as a “ground ball pitcher”. This year, to date, his ground ball to fly ball ratio is 0.38. That basically means that for every 100 balls put into play, only 27 of them are grounders. His career average ground ball to fly ball ratio is 0.83 (The MLB average is 0.80). In this particular statistic, line drives are counted as fly balls. With that being said, Kendrick has allowed 35% of balls put in play to be line drives this season. For his career, this number is 22% (The MLB average is 19%).
In addition, Kyle has converted 8.33% of double play opportunities this year (getting two outs with a runner on first). While it’s early on in the season, for comparison sake, Kendrick converts approximately 14% of these chances, while the league average is 11%.
So basically what does all of this mean for you? Kendrick has never been, and will never be, an ace of a pitching staff. At best Kendrick could be a decent 5th starter. Right now, the Phillies are paying him $2.45 million this season for his role with the club; a role he is familiar with (bouncing between bullpen and spot starts). What is presented here is to show that Kendrick needs to locate his pitches in the zone better, throw more sinkers and attempt to induce more double plays.
The Phillies will be relying on Kyle Kendrick to come in from the bullpen this year and pitch multiple innings without giving up a run. As of right now, even in a few of his appearances out of the bullpen, he has failed to get crucial outs at points in the game when it is needed. The Phillies will need to see a better Kyle Kendrick as the season moves on, as we all know that this team will be in need of strong pitching.
The Phillies welcome the Chicago Cubs to town for four games starting tonight. First up, Roy Halladay will be in search of win number four this season against lefty Paul Maholm. Maholm has faced 6 of the Phillies hitters before, and all six fair very well against him. Hunter Pence has 2 Homeruns, 9 RBI’s in 44 ABS, good enough for a .318 average. Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ty Wigginton all bat over .300 against him, and Carlos Ruiz is 2 for 7 in his career. Roy Halladay has been mostly perfect this season anyway so even if the Phils can give him some support he should be all right.
On Saturday, Joe Blanton will attempt to bounce back from a rough road trip against right hander Randy Wells. Wells will be pitching in place of Ryan Dumpster (Whoops), who is on the DL for the Cubs. Wells pitched well against the Reds in his latest outing, only giving up 2 runs on 5 hits in 5IP. He struggled in the control department, issuing six walks. Of note is that Hunter Pence bats .353 against him with 1 homerun, but let’s face it. Hunter Pence would hit off of a rocket launcher shooting marbles at him. Blanton will hope to echo is first start of the year, a strong outing at home against the Marlins.
Sunday afternoon features Kyle Kendrick vs. Matt Garza, and the wrap-around finale on Monday will see Vance Worley against Jeff Samardzija (Man Challenge: Try to say his name after killing a 12 pack of PBR). With this being a four game series, I’ll do a mid-series post Sunday morning preview the latter half of the series.