Kyle Kendrick is perhaps the most underrated player on the Phillies roster. You’ve heard the narrative surrounding him: year in and year out, he fills multiple roles for the pitching staff, usually doing a satisfactory job, and some nights doing a fantastic job, yet he still is the target of fan vitriol.
This season was perhaps the biggest indication of that, as Kendrick put together an above average year, appearing in 37 games and starting 25 of them. But he was still frequently made out to be a goat in the eyes of many fans. I believe the biggest reason Kendrick draws ire from the fans is his inconsistency. Sometimes he can look really, really bad. He was once again marred by an inability to achieve predictability in 2012.
Observe: Kendrick managed to put together two separate scoreless streaks of twenty innings or more during the season. They were number one and two for longest scoreless streaks by a Phillies pitcher in 2012. During those stretches, he was undeniably the team’s best pitcher. Furthermore, he posted ERAs of 2.89 and 2.95 during the months of May and August, respectively. At times, he looked elite. But–and with Kendrick there’s always a but–he also struggled down the stretch, when the team needed good starts as they fought to stay afloat in the race for the second wild card. His ERA from September 15 to the end of the season was a robust 6.59. On top of that, he posted an ERA near seven in both April and June. As usual, Kendrick played the role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personified.
Despite his inability to churn out positive results on the regular, the final numbers aren’t too shabby for KK. Among pitchers with at least 30 innings of work, Kendrick’s ERA of 3.90 was sixth best on the team, ahead of the likes of Vance Worley, Roy Halladay and Antonio Bastardo (although two of those three dealt with injury). He also posted a career-high in strikeouts per nine innings with 6.55 mark. Despite a high ERA in the second half of September, he finished with an overall second-half ERA of 2.87, with most of those innings coming while Kendrick was in the rotation.
The advanced metrics aren’t quite as kind to Kendrick, however. Fangraphs lists his FIP at 4.32 and his xFIP at 4.31. According to their calculations, he was good for 1.2 WAR (it should be noted that that number is double the amount of WAR Kendrick posted in any year from 2008-2011).
I believe the biggest question, though, is whether Kendrick was worth the money he was being paid or not. These things are always magnified following a contract extension, which Kendrick received during the offseason. That extension paid Kendrick $3M this season. Fangraphs says his play was worth about $5.6M. All things considered, it was a shrewd move for Ruben Amaro and the front office, as Kendrick proved to be a cheap but effective member of the roster.
At the moment, KK is earmarked to be the number five starter next year. If he could repeat his 2012 performance, he would be arguably one of the best number fives in baseball.