Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Mlb-diamondbacks-tigers
I recall that Tangotiger likes to think of pitchers as batters as a control group. Here we have a bunch of non-hitters put into hitting situations, and so their statistics in such situations are worthy of investigation. The best control group might be American League pitchers, pitchers who’ve never been in the National League before — NL pitchers, obviously, get more than a little batting practice — but even NL pitchers get only a fraction of the batting practice that position players get, because they are pitchers and they all need to work on their pitching. All of them. So they work as an effective control group anyway.
Within that control group, though, there exists a variety of batting approaches. Not every pitcher as a batter is alike, nor would we expect them to be. There’s Yovani Gallardo, who bats like a power hitter. There’s Barry Zito, who tries his damnedest to get his bat on everything and who doesn’t at all concern himself with the quality of actual contact. There’s Tommy Hanson, who sucks. Every pitcher as a batter is at least just a little bit different from all the others, and this all brings us to Ian Kennedy. Today you’re going to learn something about Ian Kennedy that you presumably didn’t know, and that you presumably didn’t think you would ever bother to know.

Kennedy pitched on Sunday in Colorado, and while the Diamondbacks won, Kennedy got himself a no-decision. But we’re not here to talk about Ian Kennedy’s pitching, and we’re certainly not here to talk about Ian Kennedy getting a no-decision. Because Kennedy pitched in Colorado, Kennedy also hit in Colorado. Here is Ian Kennedy hitting in a 2-and-0 count in the top of the fourth:

Good swing, right? And a good result. Not a good result of the good result, for Ian Kennedy, but you can’t really complain when a pitcher gets ahead and hits a line drive. What you immediately think is most remarkable about this play is the tremendous catch by DJ LeMahieu. Congratulations, you’re wrong, all of you are wrong. What’s actually most remarkable about this play is that Ian Kennedy swung at a thrown pitch.
See, turns out Ian Kennedy has this thing about him when he’s standing in the box. Kennedy wasn’t much for swinging when he joined the Diamondbacks in 2010, and he didn’t swing a whole lot in 2011, either. Which is fine; pitchers generally suck at swinging, so they should limit how often they swing. Kennedy’s taken it to a new level in 2012, though. After Sunday, Kennedy has amassed 69 plate appearances this season. He has swung at just 28.5 percent of all pitches.
As you already knew, FanGraphs provides reliable PITCHf/x plate-discipline data going back to 2008. We may refer to this as being the PITCHf/x Era. Let’s look at the window from 2008-2012, split seasons, and set a minimum of 50 plate appearances. What are the lowest swing rates that we find?

2012 Ian Kennedy, 28.5%
2010 Nick Johnson, 29.8%
2008 Luis Castillo, 30.2%
2009 Jamie Moyer, 30.3%
2010 Brett Gardner, 30.5%

We can do better than this, though. FanGraphs also has plate-discipline data going back to 2002, and while the zone data isn’t real good, we can trust the provided swing rates. Let’s examine the 2002-2012 FanGraphs Era, again splitting seasons, again setting a 50-PA minimum. The lowest swing rates, not updated through Sunday:

2012 Ian Kennedy, 28.8%
2006 Reggie Willits, 29.2%
2010 Nick Johnson, 30.3%
2008 Luis Castillo, 30.7%
2005 Brad Halsey, 30.8%

Right now, Ian Kennedy is running what would be the lowest swing rate in baseball since at least 2002. Kennedy is in line to make one or two more starts before the end of the season, which means he’ll have a few more opportunities to watch pitches go by and not swing at them. Kennedy could solidify his place atop the leaderboard, or he could throw it all away with a few aggressive lapses in judgment. I’m going to assume that there’s a reason why Ian Kennedy doesn’t swing. I’m going to assume that that reason is that Ian Kennedy isn’t good at swinging, and I’m going to assume that that reason will continue to apply.
With how much National League fans talk about the NL’s strategic superiority to the regrettably DH’d AL, there’s strikingly limited discussion about pitchers actually hitting; people talk about pitchers hitting as an idea, but the actual numbers are swept under the rug, as if the plate appearances never happened. With more discussion, perhaps we would’ve known about Ian Kennedy’s tendencies before today. Kennedy came up as an AL pitcher, and while he’s been forced to bat in the NL, it seems that these days he’s mostly opting out of the whole thing. The Diamondbacks can tell Kennedy that it’s his turn to hit, but they can’t make him actually do it. What Ian Kennedy does in the box is entirely up to Ian Kennedy, and also the pitcher and catcher too.
As it happens, I didn’t initially set out to research Ian Kennedy’s swing rate. Rather, I was looking up which pitcher has walked the most pitchers so far this season. The answer, if you’re curious, is Paul Maholm, with five walks issued to opposing pitchers — all as a member of the Cubs. I wanted to know which five pitchers Maholm has walked. Maholm has actually walked three pitchers in 2012: James McDonald, Bud Norris, and Ian Kennedy. How does 3 = 5? Here are Gameday screenshots from the four times Paul Maholm has pitched to Ian Kennedy.




Four times in 2012, Paul Maholm has pitched to Ian Kennedy. Three times in 2012, Paul Maholm has walked Ian Kennedy. Two times in 2012, Paul Maholm has walked Ian Kennedy after getting ahead in the count 0-and-2. Paul Maholm has walked Ian Kennedy more times in four plate appearances in 2012 than he’s walked Prince Fielder in 55 plate appearances in his career. Sometimes it works against Ian Kennedy that he doesn’t like to swing. Sometimes it works against the opposing pitcher.
For his career, Kennedy’s posted a 10 wRC+; for 2012, he’s posted a -3. Ian Kennedy is a very unremarkable hitting pitcher, with one very remarkable trait.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Tiger misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate during presser

Rex Ryan: Seahawks need to ‘take the air out of the football’

J.J. Watt buys cabin in the middle of nowhere to train

Six teams have done background work on Peterson

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NBA set to earn $700M through streaming deal in China

Wade Phillips is the best coordinator hire this offseason

Bill Belichick gives understated scouting report of Tom Brady

Five teams that failed to improve this offseason

Steelers fans were more profane on social media

Seahawks praise Tom Brady's trash-talking ability

Super Bowl ad focuses on acceptance of gay athletes

Foster says UT boosters paid him $40-50K while in college

Ranking the repeat Super Bowl champions

Eric Decker to Sherman: Time your conception a little better

Could Katy Perry and Russell Wilson be dating?

The Media isn't the villain we deserve, but it's the one we need

Are LeBron and the Cavs ready to make a run?

The Super Bowl and the things that can't be controlled

DeMarcus Cousins calls out writer for five-year-old tweet

What if Drew Bledsoe didn't get injured in 2001?

Who should make up the 2015 Hall of Fame class

WATCH: Porn sounds played during Predators broadcast

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Tiger Woods, misses cut: ‘I’m only doing this so I won’t get fined’

Ranking the repeat SB champions

Roger Goodell grilled on Deflategate

Katy Perry, Russell Wilson dating?

Rex Ryan has advice for Seahawks

Super Bowl: Things you can't control

LeBron and the Cavs are ready to make a run

Cousins calls out writer's old tweet

Seahawks praise Brady's trash-talk

Who should be in 2015 HOF class

Rex Ryan downplays Deflategate

Brady hopes Manning comes back

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.