Who is Ian Kennedy?

Kennedy2Ian Kennedy has posted some pretty solid numbers over his career, going 46-30 with a 3.76 ERA over 112 games (110 starts). Having been around since 2007, when he came up with the Yankees, it is easy to forget that Kennedy is just 28 years old, with a lot of time left to become a useful pitcher, whether that is in real life or fantasy baseball. The only issue is, which Ian Kennedy is the real Ian Kennedy?

As a New York Yankee farm hand, Kennedy was totally lights-out, going 19-6 with a 1.95 ERA over 46 games (43 starts), posting a 273:77 K:BB in 248.2 innings. In 2007, Kennedy jumped to the majors for three starts in September, going 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA over three starts and 19 innings. Kennedy wasn’t so good in 2008, going 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA over 10 games (9 starts) before being banished to the minors (all the way to the Gulf Coast League), where he worked on some things and earned a start on August 8, which didn’t go very well. Kennedy would make just one more appearance in the majors with the Yankees before a blood clot, which needed surgery, was found in his throwing shoulder. He was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks, as part of a three-way trade with the Detroit Tigers, on December 8, 2009 in a deal involving Curtis Granderson, Max Scherzer, and Edwin Jackson.

Kennedy3Once with Arizona, Kennedy’s career took off. In 2010, Kennedy stayed healthy, starting 32 games and tossing 194 innings while going 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and posting a 168:70 K:BB. Then, 2011 was the breakthrough…

Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over 222 innings, posting a 198:55 K:BB. Kennedy finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting (behind Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee), while earning MVP votes, finishing 14th. At the age of 26, Kennedy was poised to take the step to become one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball…

Only in 2012, things weren’t as positive for Kennedy, as he went 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, while posting a 187:55 K:BB in 208.1 innings.

While Kennedy’s 2011 season was a great step towards stardom, is he the pitcher that he was then or what he was in 2012…or somewhere in between, such as 2010?

Take a look at some statistics:

Year ERA WHIP xFIP K:9 BB:9 HR/9 BABIP LOB%
2010 3.80 1.20 4.10 7.79 3.25 1.21 0.256 75.50
2011 2.88 1.09 3.50 8.03 2.23 0.77 0.270 79.20
2012 4.02 1.30 4.13 8.08 2.38 1.21 0.306 74.90

Kennedy’s ERA, WHIP, xFIP, HR/9, and LOB% were all at career bests in 2011. In 2012, Kennedy’s BABIP was higher than the league average, which is .300, but is that enough to say that he was unlucky or was he just lucky in earlier years in Arizona?

If 2011 was an aberration, then Ian Kennedy is more likely to post a 3.90 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 200 to 220 innings. But…if Kennedy maintains his strikeout rate and his BABIP falls to his career average, .280, could Kennedy return to the 2011 form, or at least post an ERA closer to 3.00 than 4.00 and a WHIP closer to 1.10 rather than 1.20 or 1.30?

Kennedy1At 28, Sabermetrics guru Bill James sees Kennedy as more of the 2011-version, having the right-hander go 13-10 with a 3.49 ERA over 214 innings in his projections. Based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores, Kennedy is most similar to Tommy Hanson, Clay Buchholz, Mark Prior, and Mat Latos. Due to some injury concerns for a few of those players, fans of the Diamondbacks certainly hope that Kennedy can come up with a new group of pitchers to be ranked with, and if he has another season like 2011, he could do that pretty easily.

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