2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Is Ian Kennedy For Real (Again)?

ian kennedy
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports.

I pulled off a trade!

Oh…you don’t care. Fair enough. But I’m here to discuss only one detail…Ian Kennedy. He wasn’t the key part of the deal, but prying him away from his owner was less difficult than I anticipated. To a point, his inclusion felt like a throw-in. Of course, if you know of Kennedy’s last couple of seasons, a throw-in feel would make sense. However, if you remember Kennedy’s further, but not so distant past, maybe he should hold more value? After all, he is off to a very nice start in 2014.

In 2011, Kennedy was full of fantasy baseball awesomeness, giving his owners a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 198 strikeouts across 222 innings pitched. The numbers became much more modest in 2012, but still respectable and useful in a lot of leagues. Last season, things went bad, real bad. The walks and home runs jumped, while the ERA and WHIP ballooned. If you think of 2013, the indifference by my potential trade partner is well deserved. And yet, I felt like I was about to acquire a pitcher who could start for my team about 75% of the time. I’m not saying Kennedy will repeat 2011, but he certainly could deliver a slightly better version of 2010, when he posted a 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and struck out almost eight per nine. Right? Maybe I was off on this. Maybe I didn’t have every piece to the puzzle. So I decided to try and figure out Ian Kennedy.

This data does not include Ian Kennedy’s most recent start on 5/15/14.

There are several changes that immediately stood out. First was Kennedy’s velocity. It’s up.

Year Fourseam Velocity
2010 89.89
2011 91.20
2012 90.72
2013 91.45
2014 92.59

 

He’s throwing his now 92.5 MPH heater 59% of the time. The result?

Year

Groundballs per Balls In Play – Fourseam

2010 27.84
2011 29.00
2012 31.59
2013 30.19
2014 38.71

 

A lot more grounders. And really, a much more promising batted ball profile.

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB
2010 Diamondbacks 0.84 18.8% 37.1% 44.1% 10.0% 10.8%
2011 Diamondbacks 0.98 21.9% 38.6% 39.5% 13.4% 7.7%
2012 Diamondbacks 0.88 20.6% 37.3% 42.1% 10.0% 10.8%
2013 DBacks/Padres 0.99 23.3% 38.2% 38.6% 11.3% 13.2%
2014 Padres 1.40 19.5% 46.9% 33.6% 7.0% 7.0%
Total – – – 0.92 20.6% 38.1% 41.3% 10.5% 10.0%

 

It’s the first time Kennedy is getting more groundballs than fly balls. The HR/FB ratio is the lowest of his career, hovering much closer to his Cy Young caliber 2011. Over the last two seasons, he was giving up over a dinger per nine innings. Right now, that number is cut in half. Kennedy’s fastball has produced an .ISO under .200 for the first time since his breakout 2011 season, currently sitting at .186.

The increase in velocity isn’t the only change going on with the right-hander,  he is also attacking hitters differently.

Pitch Usage – 2014 Season

Fourseam Sinker Cutter Curve Change
LHH
All Counts 59% 3% 4% 18% 16%
First Pitch 62% 4% 2%

22%

10%
Batter Ahead 74% 2% 3% 11% 10%
Even 56% 3% 5% 20% 16%
Pitcher Ahead 50% 2% 4% 23% 21%
Two Strikes 53% 2% 5% 23% 18%
RHH
All Counts 59% 1% 10% 14% 16%
First Pitch 67% 1% 8%

14%

9%
Batter Ahead 77% 1% 3% 7% 11%
Even 57% 1% 10% 17% 16%
Pitcher Ahead 45% 1%

15%

17% 22%
Two Strikes 48% 1%

11%

14% 25%

 

Pitch Usage – Career

Fourseam Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change
LHH
All Counts 61% 4% 4% 0% 14% 17%
First Pitch 67% 5% 3% 0% 11% 14%
Batter Ahead 65% 5% 4% 0% 5% 20%
Even 60% 4% 4% 0% 14% 18%
Pitcher Ahead 57% 2% 4% 0% 22% 15%
Two Strikes 58% 1% 2% 0% 20% 19%
RHH
All Counts 58% 2% 12% 1% 10% 18%
First Pitch 64% 2% 15% 1% 9% 8%
Batter Ahead 63% 2% 11% 1% 4% 20%
Even 59% 2% 13% 1% 10% 15%
Pitcher Ahead 52% 2% 10% 1% 15% 20%
Two Strikes 51% 1% 5% 1% 13% 29%

 

Kennedy is using the curveball more often, especially against lefties. When you compare it to the rest of his career, the curve has doubled in usage as a first pitch offering in an at-bat. Kennedy is also throwing the cutter ahead in counts now more than ever before to righties, and is getting above average whiffs with the pitch.

Whiff Percentage:

Year Fourseam Sinker Change Slider Curve Cutter
2010 6.75 5.11 21.79 0.00 7.48 6.59
2011 7.21 5.05 20.43 0.00 9.86 6.40
2012 9.80 0.00 20.14 0.00 6.02 7.45
2013 8.52 11.11 20.13 0.00 7.08 7.37
2014 8.45 0.00 17.55 0.00 6.84

10.84

 

Despite the velocity increase, Kennedy’s whiff percentage has stayed fairly the same on his fastball. The changeup has seen a two mile per hour jump in velocity (81.59 to 83.60), which may be hurting its whiff rate. Even so, the pitch is still above average at getting swings and misses. Overall, this could be a real nice mix for Kennedy. He has the change to use as a strikeout weapon against lefties and can rely on the cutter to punch out right-handed hitters.

All of this is certainly promising for Kennedy, but what about his lack of control from last season? Well, it is lacking no longer. He is pitching more in the zone and has the lowest walk percentage of his career (5.6%). It has simply been great. He has a track record of above average control, so although it may not be this good, it shouldn’t be too far off.

Apparently, the San Diego Padres tinkered with Kennedy’s mechanics, so perhaps this is the reason behind the velocity spike and the rebirth of success. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He has the highest K-rate (28.3%), the lowest walk rate, the least homers allowed, and the best groundball percentage of his career. Expecting a 2011 repeat is probably fool’s gold, but Kennedy looks to be a good bet to finish as a top-40 fantasy starter. If you are looking for an inexpensive arm, there may be Kennedy owners out there who don’t fully believe. You could land an inexpensive starter that gives you an ERA in the mid-threes, a 1.15-1.20 WHIP, and 8-plus strikeouts per nine. Not too shabby for a throw-in.

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2 Comments

  1. May 21, 2014 at 8:19 am — Reply

    Great analysis this is why I switched preferences from rotoworld , razzball etc
    Plus josh shepardson’s pitcher rankings are stellar. #analysis and not guessing

    • May 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm — Reply

      Thank you. I appreciate that. Josh does a great job. Everyone here at the Fix is a piece to the puzzle.

      We hope you continue to enjoy our work. Thanks again and keep reading!

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