The answer to the above question may seem fairly straight forward to most Phillies fans who want to see the team win, and win now. Long gone are the times of ponderous baseball, with managements teams and fans alike wanting to see success on the field at a faster and faster rate. The story of Kyle Kendrick’s 2014 season is hardly a romantic one, and doesn’t feature a great rebound story from a poor showing in 2013, rather a reflection on the growing impatience and frustration at the performance of the team and certain players.
I could start by defining the term ‘scapegoat’, but I know that wouldn’t put me in the best estimates of most fans, and I would feel slightly in contempt of the ‘fair trial’ that Kendrick is owed. There should be no bias when reviewing the 2014 season, that being said it is impossible not to look back on his career so far, so with that being said, I shall begin.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 MLB amateur draft, Kyle Rodney Kendrick was signed by the Phillies on June 25th 2003. Things didn’t exactly start perfectly, as in 2003 Kendrick went 0-4 at rookie level with a 5.46 ERA, giving up 24 runs over 31 innings.
2004 was equally horrendous, going 5-16 with an ERA north of 5.7 over 27 starts. The early indications were a real control problem, as Kendrick had surrendered 88 runs over 137.1 innings through the 2004 season, walking 51 (3.3 BB/9) resulting in an astronomical WHIP of 1.675. In many ways, the struggles of a young Kyle Kendrick echo his struggles in the last couple of seasons.
Nevertheless, through 2005 and 2006 things got a bit better, as his record was 17-17 over the two years (spent at A-, A and A+) and his ERA through the latter year was 3.17. In 2006, Kendrick was able to pitch a lot of innings as well, amassing 176 thanks to a much reduced WHIP of 1.153.
This earn him a call-up to AA for the beginning of 2007, where over 12 starts he held a 4-7 record despite a 3.21 ERA at an average of 0.3 HR/9 and a career best 2.78 strikeout/walk ratio.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Phillies called on him in June 2007 to pitch in the Majors, and with great success. With 20 starts under his belt from that point until the end of the season, Kendrick went an impressive 10-4, with a 3.87 ERA, and his control issues seemingly a thing of the past.
Of course, the argument is that you could drop any pitcher in that rotation and the offense would find a way to win them games, but the runs against (52 earned over 121 innings) says its own story. Of course the big stage was too much, as he surrendered 5 runs over 3.2 innings in the NLDS game against Colorado that year. Interestingly, that is his only postseason start to date.
Skip ahead a few bang average years and here we are at 2014. Looking back at 2013, its easy to see why skeptics were given so much ammunition to fire at Kendrick. He struggled, with a 4.70 ERA over 182 innings, going 10-13 with a WHIP almost touching 1.4.
‘KK’ as he is sometimes known, was beginning to see how important run support was to winning games, and without passing the blame on (he pitched pretty terribly that season of his own accord), his confidence will have taken a huge hit from losing games that the team would have won him a couple of seasons back.
Every pitcher has to find a way to win games, but getting 1 or 2 runs to work with is sometimes too much to ask. For the aces like Kershaw, Peavy and even our own Hamels, it may well be enough, but Kendrick rarely turns in a stellar start (although he did have two complete game shutouts in 2013).
2014 was eerily similar for Kendrick, posting the same record of 10-13, a 4.61 ERA (compared to 4.70 the previous year) and a WHIP of above 1.35.
Watching Kendrick pitch has been seen as one of the most frustrating parts of last season, giving up 102 earned runs, 2.6 walks/9, 11 hit-by-pitches, and over 1 home-run/9. He finished 42nd out of the 43 pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, and batters hit .276 off him.
Its tough when the team aren’t performing well, and this is where the ‘scapegoat’ idea comes back around. Kendrick led the team in wins this year, hitting double figures in wins for the 6th time in his career. The entire starting rotation struggled in 2014, yet KK found a way to get wins. It baffles the best of us, especially considering the amount of times he limped through first innings or got himself in a jam.
For the first time, Kendrick will become a free agent, and while my word is not gospel, I think the Phillies will be letting him go. They may chance their arm with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to slot into the role, as over the last two seasons the Kendrick experiment seems to have kind of backfired. However, he is unproven and still has development to do, as well as the inconsistency he has shown.
But that is another issue for another time, and if Kendrick’s swan song performance was the 7 innings of one-run ball he pitched against Miami on September 24th, it would be quite fitting. I certainly have no vendetta against KK and respect what he has done and what he has achieved, however, a fresh start might do his career a lot of good.
Moving forward, ultimately I don’t think the Phillies should be looking at bringing Kyle Kendrick back. It is sad to say after 11 years with the organization, but I fear it is farewell.