Phillies pitchers Kyle Kendrick (left) and Cliff Lee (right) during Spring Training. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Lets talk starting pitching. Everyone loves it, everyone needs it.
For the Phillies, they have an overabundance of it. From established veterans like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels to and up and coming star in Vance Worley.
That fills the first four spots in the rotation, and assuming Roy Oswalt isn’t coming back, who gets the fifth starter’s spot? It’s always seemed to be the biggest question since the dawn of time itself for the Phillies.
With the fifth starter’s spot still up in the air, three names come to mind when looking to fill that void. They are Kyle Kendrick, Joe Blanton and Joel Pineiro.
Though there are three names competing for that spot, only one should be picked. Let’s make a case for Kendrick.
Kendrick is coming off, arguably his best season since his rookie campaign in 2007. He finished 2011 with a record of 8-6 and a 3.22 ERA in 114.2 IP (34 games, 15 starts) as well as a 1.22 WHIP and a 120 ERA+.
Kendrick really found himself last season in the bullpen, pulling some big wins down the stretch and keeping games close. And while he doesn’t have “swing and miss” stuff, he works best with what he has and gets the job done.
If you are looking at career stats and the like, Kendrick, career as a starter is 38-27 with a 4.50 ERA in 547.2 IP. While those numbers will not impress anyone, he has proven himself to be a competent fifth starter. The other things to notice are that Kendrick’s stats are similar to Blanton’s.
However, what Kendrick doesn’t have, is recovery from an elbow injury. Joe Blanton is recovering from an elbow injury suffered during his sixth start of last season.
While Blanton says that he is 100% recovered, there still is that uncertainty. Blanton could be considered “injury prone” and there is also the issue with his weight as well.
The pros of using Kendrick as a fifth starter:
- Versatility: He is versatile, in that he can transition from starter to reliever when the situation during the season calls for it. He fills in other roles as well.
- Affordability: Relative to Blanton’s $8.5 million contract this season, which is off the books at the end of 2012, Kendrick is a cheap and effective choice even for next season.
- With over four years in the bigs, he is a proven veteran. Though this one is negated by both Pineiro and Blanton.
- Kendrick’s work ethic is excellent. He works hard and does the job asked of him. What more could you ask for out of a fifth starter/long reliever?
- Kendrick has a low K/9 ratio. For his career he’s only averaged a 4.1 K/9. His BB/9 isn’t much better.
- At $3.75 million this season, for a sixth starter/long reliever, he is a bit expensive.
- Gives up roughly a walk for every strike out. His K/BB ratio is 1.26, meaning, for every one strikeout, he gives up a walk.
- 9.9 H/9. That’s almost 10 hits a game, which is a lot. Although Blanton’s H/9 is 9.6 and Pineiro’s is 9.6 as well; so they cancel out.
All that said, Kendrick deserves a shot at the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation. If he doesn’t get it, it’ll be a sign that he had a lousy spring. No one in this city thinks (or is going to make the mistake of thinking) that he is an ace like Halladay, Hamels, or Lee.
Kendrick can eat up innings like the best of them. When it comes to fifth starters, he is the top choice to be included in one of the best rotations in baseball.