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Kyle Kendrick: Was he actually good?

Taking a second look at the former Phillies pitcher

Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres
Kyle Kendrick was around for the best of times and the worst of times.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Every so often, I take a former Phillie who may or may not have been well-regarded by fans and take a fresh look to see if we judged him too harshly or not harshly enough. Since he finished runner-up in my topic poll the other day, I decided that Kyle Kendrick would get the “Was he actually good?” treatment this time around.

Kendrick was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2003 Amateur Draft and progressed his way up the system. In 2007, the big-league team was dealing with a string of pitcher injuries, and despite never pitching above AA, Kendrick was the organization’s choice to fill in the rotation.

Kendrick pitched competently and became somewhat of a fan favorite. He consistently gave the team innings, going at least six in his first six starts, and he only exited before the fifth one time all year. Backed by a strong offense, Kendrick won 10 games that rookie season, earning him fifth place in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

He actually started game two of the Phillies’ NLDS series against the Colorado Rockies, but like just about everything else in that series, it didn’t go well for the Phillies. He left in the fourth inning with the bases loaded, and Kyle Lohse then served up a grand slam in relief.

Kendrick’s most famous moment with the Phillies might have come during the following season when the team played an elaborate prank, convincing him that he had been traded to Japan:

Kendrick remained in America and the Phillies’ rotation, but 2008 didn’t go as well as his rookie year. By the end of the season, his ERA had risen well over 5.00, and he was left off the postseason roster.

He spent much of 2009 in the minors but returned to the major league rotation in 2010. Over the next two seasons, he would bounce between the rotation and bullpen, usually making starts when one of the more ballyhooed starters was dealing with an injury.

A lot went wrong in the 2012 season, but Kendrick wasn’t one of them. He pitched very well down the stretch, putting up a 2.87 ERA in the second half. That carried over into 2013, when he had a 3.68 ERA in the first half. But like the rest of the team, the second half didn’t go nearly as well. He had a 6.91 ERA in 11 post-All-Star starts.

Kenrick remained in the rotation the following two years, but as the Phillies descended in the standings, the one-time fan favorite fell into disfavor. A fanbase that had grown accustomed to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee was now watching Kendrick make unspectacular start after another.

After the 2015 season, Kendrick reached free agency. With the team in full rebuilding mode, the team sought other options, and Kendrick was allowed to depart to Colorado where he spent one awful season. Aside from a quick two-game stint with the Red Sox in 2017, his major league career was over.

So, how should Kendrick be remembered? Should we think of the plucky rookie who helped save the 2007 season, or as the guy who partly came to represent the team’s downfall from 2012 to 2015?

Looking at Kendrick’s stats, it seems that he was just a slightly below average starter during his time in Philadelphia. His rookie year win total and ERA helped skew expectations, since his FIP indicated that he wasn’t as good as his traditional stats would have us believe. And in today’s game, those numbers would have been worse since he likely would have been pulled from games much earlier than he was.

As for post-2009, his numbers paint the picture of an adequate back-of-the-rotation starter. Both his ERA and FIP consistently fell somewhere in the 3.00-5.00 range, and he averaged about 1.0 win above replacement each season. You can generally win with guys like that if you have a very good team around them, but if you don’t, their weaknesses seem more glaring.

In conclusion, I don’t think “Was Kyle Kendrick actually good?” is a question that can be fairly answered. He was part of very good Phillies teams, as well as some very bad ones. Sometimes he would pitch well, and other times, he would not. He was neither good, nor bad; He just was.