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 resemblesGreg 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 Hudsononce 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.
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You’d think that, if you managed a player who was almost totally unable to get a base hit, you might consider telling him not to swing. Pitchers, most pitchers, are almost totally unable to get base hits. You might tell your terrible-hitting pitchers not to swing unless they're behind 0-2 or 1-2. "If you can't stop yourself from swinging," you might suggest to these pitchers, "think about something totally unrelated to baseball as a distraction. Think about sex, to distract yourself from the baseball you're having."
Earlier this season, Ian Kennedy starred in a factoid on this site when he was outwalking Albert Pujols. Ian Kennedy seems to have figured out on his own that he should not swing. He walked 11 times this year, in 73 plate appearances, which would be the second-highest walk rate in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He’s a terrible hitter, but he’s an excellent statue. Only three players (Lou Marson, Daric Barton, and the pitcher Christian Friedrich) swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, and no player swung at fewer pitches inside the strike zone, and of course no player swung at fewer pitches in aggregate. Ian Kennedy drew three four-pitch walks. Never forget this: pitchers don't actually have much control, and Kennedy's experience suggests a man without a bat can walk at least 10 percent of the time.
Pardon me for hitting this point again and again, but it's by far the most fascinating part of Albert Pujols' season so far. Anybody can go into a home run drought; the difference between a home run and a flyout is, what, the width of a cuticle? It's very easy for a home-run hitter to not hit a home run. They do it all the time. But to not walk is just so deliberate, and significant. Barry Bonds never went more than seven games without a walk. Adam Dunn has never gone more than nine games without a walk. Walks don't just disappear for no reason, and Albert Pujols' walks have disappeared, and they have disappeared not just for a month but since last year's All-Star break. Delmon Young now has as many unintentional walks as Albert Pujols since last year's break. I'm not just piling on because he's in a slump. This is a genuine mysterious phenomenon! So here's a quick rundown of things with as many or more unintentional walks than Albert Pujols this year:
The Brewers advance to the NLCS with an extra-inning game to remember
If you didn’t catch tonight’s NLDS finale between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, you missed quite the game. Framed as a potential pitchers’ duel between Ian Kennedy and Yovanni Gallardo, the two starters didn’t disappoint. Each went six innings, pitching well enough to maintain the pitchers’ duel pretense but allowing enough action to keep the fans excited—a perfect blend. The announcers commented during the game that every base hit is a rally in the playoffs, and while that might be a bit of an exaggeration, it definitely felt like it in a back-and-forth game like this.
The 2006 draft has served as a major talent influx for the top forces in the NL West.
I'd wanted to write about Clayton Kershaw because I haven't discussed him in as much detail as his season merits, but finding a fresh angle proved to be difficult. Improved control? Done. Comparisons to Sandy Koufax? Done. A thousand other things? Done.
There's Snakes on the field, but a few too many coming home, too.
If seeing former Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman's Washington ballclub leave town was a case of a not-so-fond farewell to an old friend after losing a series, next up is Arizona. With so many players left from the two teams that squared off in the Diamondbacks' sweep of the 2007 NL Division Series, for the Cubs, renewing this rivalry with a rhumba of rattlers provides equal measures of revenge and a run back toward .500.
These ten young players didn't make big league rosters out of spring, but could still be key players later in 2008. That, plus news and notes from week two of the season.
Last week we looked at the surprise names on Opening Day rosters. This week, let's take a look at 10 players who did not make the final cut in spring training and are not currently on major league rosters who should make an impact at some point this season (listed in descending order of their projected WARP for 2008, according to PECOTA):