Kyle Kendrick and the Sore Shoulder

Does Kyle Kendrick have a future with the Phillies?

Does Kyle Kendrick have a future with the Phillies?

Kyle Kendrick missed his last scheduled start against the Marlins because of what he called a sore shoulder. The results of the MRI came back and we learned that Kendrick had mild inflammation is his pitching shoulder. What? Excuse me? Tell me again why Kendrick missed a start and has now been shut down for the rest of the season. Is it really because he has mild inflammation in his pitching shoulder? WOW, I have a very difficult time wrapping my head around that one. Is there a starting pitcher in baseball that doesn’t have mild inflammation in September?

This was supposed to be Kyle Kendrick’s breakout year. In his six previous seasons with the Phils Kendrick has has bounced back and forth between starting and the bullpen, but had managed to start 153 games since his debut on June 13th, 2007. Last year Kendrick finished on a high note, going 7-3 with a 2.43 ERA in his final 10 starts. Five of those ten starts were WG’s (winnable game = 7+ IP , 2 ER or less).

Kendrick was rewarded with the knowledge that he wouldn’t be competing for a starting role in 2013. He was penciled in as the the Phils 4th starter behind Hamels, Halladay and Lee. Kendrick got the nod to pitch the home opener this year against the surprising KC Royals. It was an unimpressive start as Kendrick only lasted 5.2 innings, allowing 5 ER in the Phils loss. The next seven games Kendrick pitched five WG . He was tied with Lee in that department and led all Phils starters with a 2.43 ERA after eight games. Combined with his last 10 starts in 2012 Kendrick was 11-4 with a 2.45 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and 10 WG’s in 18 starts (55.5%).

Finally, Kendrick had arrived. These were the numbers of a number one pitcher. Before you start writing in telling me to stop breaking the meds in half, there’s no false illusion here that Kendrick had become an ace. However, the sample size of 18 consecutive starts spread over two seasons is large enough to believe he had become a good pitcher.

Perhaps it was all those 5:30 AM training sessions with Doc that helped Kendrick fine tune his game, or maybe after 113 starts and 41 relief appearances Kendrick was finally putting it all together. Whatever it was, it looked like Kendrick was a steal at $4,500,000 this year. However many people seem to forget how long a 162 game season is.

After his first eight starts this year Kendrick dropped off to putting up 3rd/4th starter numbers. He was 3-3, but his ERA was 4.50 and his WHIP increased to 1.327. Even with the drop off Kendrick managed to post 3 WG’s in this 2nd eight-game span of the 2013 season. Now 16 games into the season Kendrick was 7-4 with 8 WG’s to his credit.  His ERA of 3.46 was a better than the league average and his WHIP was only 1.190. So far, so good.

Then the wheels fell off and Kendrick completely lost it. Though there was no loss in velocity which would indicate an injured shoulder, Kendrick began elevating his best pitch, the sinker. With a sinker that was coming in belt high and getting a lot of the plate, number 38 in your program started getting smacked around the park.

In his final 14 starts before being shut down with mild inflammation Kendrick went 3-9, posted one WG, had a 6.45 ERA and a dangerously high WHIP of 1.686. What happened? How did a player that pitched like a number one over 18 games just lose it like that? Oh, I keep forgetting, mild inflammation.

One thing I try not to do when writing these columns is question a players motivation or desire. I can’t read the minds and hearts of people I don’t know. I don’t know Kendrick’s work ethic, training regiment, diet, sleep patterns etc. The habits of a disciplined athlete keeps a body finely tuned, and are the key ingredients that separate good athletes from the great ones.

I’m not going to change how I view athletes with this look into Kyle Kendrick’s recent fall from grace. That said, to come out of the rotation, albeit in meaningless games, because he has mild inflammation in his pitching shoulder screams mentally weak to me. This is an opinion piece not necessarily shared by the founder of Philly Sports Rant, but is something I believe a championship caliber player would never do.

In speaking with a colleague earlier in the week he mentioned to me the shoulder soreness could have affected Kendrick’s mechanics. Is that possible? Sure, anything is possible. However a professional athlete making millions of dollars should be mentally strong enough to throw his game despite some mild discomfort.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. All Kendrick has is mild inflammation, which at the most should cause mild discomfort. There’s no tears, fraying of the muscles, bone spurs that need to be shaved down or an inordinate amount of inflammation. There’s nothing that could even remotely be considered serious with regards to Kendricks shoulder, yet he’s scratched from not only one start, but two additional starts in which he’d have got the ball.

One of the attributes Kendrick has shown over his career is the ability to pitch when called upon. He’s never been on the DL, not even in the minors. Had he made his last three scheduled starts Kendrick had an opportunity to surpass 200 innings pitched, which would have been a first in his career. I would think going into his final year of arbitration that number would have given his agent an additional card to play in negotiations, whether that’s with the Phillies or another team if Amaro decides to not tender Kendrick.

A couple months ago it was assumed Kendrick would receive between 8-10 million dollars if he went to arbitration. Many fans thought that number outrageous for the type of pitcher Kendrick is. More recently, after Kendrick has had one bad outing after another, the numbers I’m seeing for Kendrick have dropped to the 6-8 million dollar range. This is all sportswriter speculation. No one knows what the market will bear in a couple months when it’s time for Amaro to make a decision on what to do with the 29-year old Kendrick.

When Kendrick first came under fire from the fans I defended him, pointing out the market for a 4th starter with Kendrick’s years of service and overall career numbers. Lifetime Kendrick is 64-55 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.369 WHIP. Last year as a free agent Edwin Jackson received a 4-year deal from the cubs for $52,000,000. Jackson’s lifetime numbers were 70-71 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.438 WHIP.

What was Theo Epstein thinking? What was the Cubs reward for making Jackson rich beyond his wildest dreams? An 8-16 season that includes a 4.75 ERA and 1.422 WHIP. Aside from wins and losses, often times beyond the pitchers control, Jackson pitched pretty close to his career numbers. Is that what $13,000,000 a year buys today?

Looking at what Jackson received, along with what other pitchers of similar numbers earn have me believing that $8,000,000 on a one-year deal is not outrageous for Kendrick in today’s market. Perhaps if the Phils want to lock him up on a multi-year deal they can get the figure closer to 18 – 21 million over three years. If the Phils decide to non tender Kendrick don’t be surprised when you hear what he gets from a team that is short on starting pitching.

Starting pitchers who can take the ball every 5th day are making outrageous sums of money.  That’s why I laugh when I see fans comments saying they’d bring Kendrick back if he’d be willing to take a significant pay cut from his current salary. The funnier comments suggest bringing Kendrick back to pitch middle relief. That’s one of the few areas in baseball where pitchers are not making big money. Middle relievers tend to be young, cost controlled pitchers who are not yet arbitration eligible and are making near major league minimum dollars.

Now you must be wondering why I’m talking about bringing Kendrick back next year after saying I don’t believe he has the makeup to be a championship quality pitcher. It’s because I don’t make the decision, Ruben Amaro Jr does. When I heard yesterday that Kendrick had been shut down for the rest of the season I asked myself why would the Phils do this if they weren’t considering bringing him back? If there was no interest in having Kendrick return why would the Phils care if he actually came up with a real injury in these final two weeks? It leads me to believe that while a decision has not yet been made, the door on Kendrick is far from closed.

Another reason to sign Kendrick is that I’m a pragmatist. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. While I prefer to not see Kendrick in a Phils uniform next year I don’t believe in throwing away assets. Once signed, Kendrick could then be traded for prospects or packaged with a Phils prospect(s) for one or more of the many pieces Amaro will need to fill out the Phils 2014 roster.

Over the next few months we’ll get to see how this all plays out. Had Kendrick been able to continue pitching like he had early in the season the fans would be falling all over him, demanding Amaro lock him up for at least three years. Chronologically, Kendrick has just entered his prime. No matter what happens he’s going to make a lot of paper next year.

If I was the Phils GM Kendrick wouldn’t be a Phillie next year. I’ll leave you with one final thought to ponder…why is it that Kyle Kendrick was a winning pitcher on the five consecutive playoff teams the Phils had, but only appeared in post season play one year, his rookie season? Am I the only person who doesn’t believe he’s a championship quality player? Apparently not.

 

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About yougottalovethepain

I'm a long time sports fan that's passionate about Philly sports. I agree with Vince Lombardi when he said "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing". To win, you gotta love the pain and do what your competitors aren't willing to do.

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