Given the temperature of baseball in New York, I thought it was about time to just start writing about the Phillies without adding the New York spin. It's clear that the Yankees only care about themselves and that almost no one cares about the Mets. So here's a perspective about my home team from afar.
Much has been made of Kyle Kendrick's struggles recently. With the Phillies broadcast suggesting that he was available in relief in tonight's game, it made me wonder if Kendrick's vocation is simply pitching in a different format, not moving half way around the world. So I tried to forget his recent troubles and took a look at some of his split stats over his career.
The most obvious splits would be between his starts and relief appearances:
Starter: 79 G, 442.1 IP, 4.80 ERA, .297 BABIP, 4.0K/9
Reliever: 10 G, 19.0 IP, 3.32 ERA, .279 BABIP, 4.7K/9
Despite the extremely small sample size of his relief appearances as a professional, it appears that Kendrick is a stronger pitcher in relief. The difference in BABIP is slight, as is his strikeout rate, but his ERA is almost 1.5 runs lower.
Being that Kyle is not a strikeout pitcher, but instead supposed to be a ground ball specialist, he would probably not do well in high leverage situations. But I'm not convinced that he would just need to be a mop-up man either, based on his leverage splits:
High: .292 BAA, .267 BABIP, .833 OPS, 0.81 K/BB
Medium: .282 BAA, .295 BABIP, .781 OPS, 1.66 K/BB
Low: .299 BAA, .308 BABIP, .845 OPS, 1.69 K/BB
Along with having the best numbers in medium leverage situations, these splits tell a few things. In medium and low leverage situations, Kendrick has a BABIP around league average, meaning his performance in these situations is likely sustainable. However, in high leverage situations, he is actually getting somewhat lucky. Therefore, Kyle would likely be a candidate for middle relief, medium leverage situations.
Now let's take a look at his batted ball and plate discipline data for his career. This shows his line drive, ground ball, fly ball, and infield fly ball rates, as well as his first pitch strike, contact, and total strike percentages:
Batted Balls: 21.8% LD, 45.7% GB, 32.5% FB, 8.4% IFFB
Plate Discipline: 59.4% F-Strike%, 88.8% Contact%, 48.5% Zone%
While these numbers aren't ideal for a reliever, they must also be considered in context. All but 19.0 of Kyle's innings in the big leagues have been as a starter. Under those circumstances, Kendrick must pitch to contact given his lack of strikeouts. Clearly, if he were to become a reliever, he would need to throw more strikes and first-pitch strikes.
But in relief appearances, it may be possible for him to focus more on the task at hand and begin inducing a greater number of ground balls. The old adage of quality over quantity may have a beneficial impact on his effectiveness. With the way Kyle has struggled, a simple change of scenery to the bullpen may not hurt. And there is a potential that it would benefit the Phillies, by shaving innings off of Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin's workloads.