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March 26, 2013 5:00 am
How does Ian Kennedy get so many whiffs with so little zip?
Ian Kennedy is the subject of an identity crisis. At a glance Kennedy looks like a command-and-control pitcher. You know the type. Small, with a fastball in the low-90s that, when it is thrown, is located well at the knees or on the black. The kind who changes speeds, throws strikes, and hides the fastball. On his best days this type resembles Greg Maddux; on his worst days he resembles a poor forgery. In many ways Kennedy fits the archetype. He does throw four pitches for strikes. He does mix speeds and locations. He does thrive based on his location. But Kennedy uses his fastball more and in ways that he should not be able to based on its velocity—or as teammate Daniel Hudson once put it, "If you look at the radar gun, you wouldn't say he's a power pitcher, but he pitches like one. He pitches up in the zone with it, gets swings and misses with it."
You wouldn't say Kennedy is a power pitcher if you were looking at the radar gun, but you might say he's a power pitcher if you were looking at our PITCHf/x leaderboards. Only three right-handed pitchers threw more four-seam fastballs last season: Justin Verlander, Phil Hughes, and Max Scherzer. Kennedy had a lower average velocity than each. In fact only one other pitcher that ranked in the top-15 averaged fewer than 91 mph on their fastball, and that was Tommy Hanson.