Kyle Kendrick Is In Baseball Hell
The idea of putting baseball's worst starting pitcher in the game's most homer-friendly park seems like a sadistic thought experiment. Kyle Kendrick is living it.
Photo by Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
In Kyle Kendrick's first game with the Colorado Rockies he faced the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee. This was April 6. He threw seven shutout innings, allowing only seven hits, walking no one, and striking out six. That's a very good start. In his career Kendrick has had 11 other starts where he's thrown at least seven shutout innings. So, that's 12 very good starts. Out of 191. That's Kyle Kendrick.
Kendrick's thing is innings. He's good at throwing them. He's less good at how they turn out for his team. To the extent that Kyle Kendrick is a known quantity, he is known for that. Take that known quantity and put it into the known quantity that is the thin air of Coors Field in Denver, Colorado and... well, it does not seem difficult to know what would happen next. We never really know—there was, after all, the smashing success of Kendrick's first start for Colorado—but it's not hard to guess. The Colorado Rockies signed him anyway, and plugged him into their starting rotation.
They did this knowing what we know about Kyle Kendrick by watching him pitch since 2007. He walks hitters at about a league average rate, and he gives up fly balls at a barely below league average rate, which sounds good but still means he gives up a fair number of fly balls. Coors Field takes normal fly balls and, like a good coach, turns them into more than they should be. Coors Field sees the potential in fly balls. It helps them, nourishes them, shows them that with a little hard work and some extremely thin mile-above-sea-level air, they can make it over that wall. And they do.
The more fly balls a pitcher gives up the more homers he's going to give up, and the more fly balls a pitcher gives up when pitching in Coors Field, the more likely that we'll wind up somehow feeling sorry for a multi-millionaire that plays a game for a living. In that situation the pitcher has to help himself by walking as few hitters as possible and striking out as many as he can. Problem is Kyle Kendrick is bad at striking hitters out and he's nothing special at limiting walks. This is like a firefighter walking into a burning house, but instead of wearing his helmet and fireproof gear, he's wearing children's pajamas from the 1970s. Also straw underwear.
And then Kendrick shut out the Brewers with nary a homer allowed. Of course, the start was in Milwaukee, but still, not one teeny-tiny little homer? Sad face. Since then however, happy face! Kyle Kendrick's 2015 season has been the baseball equivalent of binge-watching "this guy falls 20 feet and lands testicles-first onto a metal railing!" videos on YouTube. In the five starts since crushing my sadistic dreams in Milwaukee, Kendrick has allowed 10 home runs. His strikeout rate is as crappy as usual and his walk rate is a cat's whisker above his career average, but the homers are coming like the people flocking to watch the swallows flock to San Juan Capistrano.
Weirder still is that Kendrick has only pitched two games in Colorado. In those games he's given up five homers in 12 innings, which means the deliciously dinger-laden possibilities that everyone in baseball foresaw—with the exception of the Rockies front office—are still very much on the proverbial table.
But as the Rockies tend to do, they're screwing it up. They're screwing up the one thing that could be worthwhile about their season. If you're going to be horrible, and they are, then why not be interesting while you're at it? Horrible yet interesting was the driving theory behind the entire Rockies franchise before they somehow won 22 of 23 games, including seven playoff games, to end the '07 season, a streak that gave them the right to be run over by the Red Sox in the World Series. Since then they've largely abandoned interesting in search of good, and as they're wont to do, they've struck out.
Pitching Kyle Kendrick in Colorado as much as possible might not be a "good idea" in the traditional sense of the term. It might not give the Rockies "the best chance" to "win baseball games" and it could very well lead to "people" in the "front office" "losing" their "jobs."
But then they signed Kyle Kendrick in the first place, so they kind of deserve it. By the way, Kendrick gave up two homers in San Diego's capacious home park this past Sunday. Do you think you can stop Kyle Kendrick from doing what he does, Rockies organization? You can't. You did this to yourselves, and at this point you may as well enjoy it. We might as well do the same.
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