Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/8/12
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We’re all surprised at just about every facet of Ian Kennedy‘s 2011 stat line, but, personally, I was shocked at how good his 2010 numbers were, too. He didn’t win 21 games or post an ERA under 3.00 like he did last season, but his 1.20 WHIP was pretty good and I’ll always take a chance on a pitcher with a .223 OBA over 194 innings. With two back-to-back useful seasons — and useful doesn’t even begin to describe his numbers last year — Kennedy has become somewhat of a proven commodity. His 3.22 FIP was 20th-best of the 98 pitchers who threw at least 160 innings, and his 1.09 WHIP ranked 13th. You might take one look at Kennedy’s BABIPs from the last two seasons and conclude his OBAs were lucky to be .223 and .222, but Kennedy is a moderate fly ball pitcher, and fly ball pitchers tend to have lower BABIPs because flies result in hits almost half as often as ground balls. I’d be surprised if Kennedy touches 20 wins again, but he’s a workhorse who’ll be among the best pitchers again this season.

Best case scenario: Felix Hernandez (SEA)
Similar players: C.J. Wilson (LAA), Jered Weaver (LAA), Matt Cain (SF)
Worst case scenario: Ervin Santana (LAA)

Strengths

W, WHIP, K, IFFB%, control, second half. That’s six strengths by my count. Because of his durability, and what looks to be a pretty good offense in Arizona, Kennedy goes deep into games and piles up the wins. I wouldn’t be on 20 again, but 16-18 seems safe to me. Kennedy’s good control manifests itself both in his walk rate (2.23 BB/9) and first-pitch strike rate (63.8%, league average 58.4%). He’s also a good bet to post a low BABIP and thus a low OBA due to his moderate fly ball tendencies, specifically his infield fly rate (13.4%). Flies become outs most of the time, and infield flies are almost always outs. Combined with his control, that should yield a very low WHIP and limit the damage the inevitable home runs cause. Kennedy has also been a clutch second half performer in his two years with the Diamondbacks. In 2010 he had a 3.38 ERA after the break versus 4.12 before, and last season he had a 2.11 ERA after the break versus 3.44 before.

Weaknesses

Fly balls at Chase Field. We’re starting to get to the point where we’re nitpicking with some of these weaknesses, and if there’s one thing I hate it’s picking nits. That said, Chase Field is a moderate home run hitter’s park, and fly ball pitchers might struggle from time to time. It should be noted, though, that the data does not support this. In Kennedy’s two years in Arizona, he’s had better home run rates at home.

ADP Report (70.2)

If we keep all of Kennedy’s 2011 numbers the same except his win total (let’s change that to 17) and his ERA (how about 3.20?), his end-of-season rank jumps from 21 to 50. There is moderate risk that his walk rate goes up a tick and maybe he doesn’t even win 17 games, and that’s why we rank him a little lower than 50, but all-in-all this is a good place to draft a workhorse starter.

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