Well, things did go wrong. Roy Halladay was 2-4 with a 8.65 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP before going on the disabled list to have shoulder surgery. It is still not clear whether or not he will ever pitch again for the Phillies.
Cole Hamels is 1-7 with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Hamels, who got the Opening Day start this year, has not gotten much run support while the team is 1-9 in his 10 starts this year.
With the top two starters struggling, the Phillies needed Kendrick to step up and pitch well. He has delivered. Kendrick is 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA and a miniscule 1.15 WHIP.
This is by far the best season of his career. He has never had an ERA lower than 3.22 and never had a WHIP lower than 1.22. Kendrick's hits allowed per nine innings (H/9) is the lowest it has ever been (8.3) as he has never had a H/9 lower than 8.6.
A major improvement has come with his sinker. He is throwing it more and has shown that he has better command of the pitch than he had in the past. Look no further than his 0.9 HR/9 when he has never been below 1.1 for any season with more than three starts.
Kendrick has put together fantastic control numbers. His 2.1 walks per nine innings (BB/9) are his lowest since his rookie season in 2007. His strikeout to walk ratio of 2.93 is, going away, the best he has ever had at the Major League level.
One of the reasons that Dom Brown has performed so well in the clutch is his ability to take advantage of 3-1 counts and take advantage when he is ahead in the count. Conversely, one of the primary reasons that Kyle Kendrick has been successful is that he has battled back in similar situations.
Kendrick has fallen behind 2-1 to batters six times of 252 plate appearances. In those six plate appearances, he has allowed just one hit and no walks. He has fallen behind 3-1 four times and has not allowed a hit while walking one batter.
The Major League average when batters are ahead in the count is .292/.462/.504 (BA/OBP/SLG). This is a solid average given that the batter holds the upper hand in the at-bat. The most stunning split for Kendrick is that batters are only hitting .207/.361/.293 when ahead in the count.
If that shows anything it is that Kendrick is not giving up on at-bats and, when he falls behind, he is finding ways to get batters out.
With runners on base, hitters are batting .198/.250/.281 against Kendrick. The Major League average is .260/.331/.405. They are hitting .164/.242/.255 with runners in scoring position when Kendrick is pitching compared to the ML average of .257/.340/.398.
The biggest step forward in Kendrick's game is his ability to buckle down and limit the damage. His growth has largely been attributed to his work with Halladay.
Whatever it is, it is working. And, turning 29 in August, Kendrick is still young enough to continue to improve. He will not overpower anyone with a fastball but his ability to use his change up against left handed batters and throw his sinker to make righties look foolish will carry him.
Since his rookie season in 2007, Kendrick has had one season (2012) in which he had a record below .500.
Kyle Kendrick might be here to stay and, if he can continue to pitch this way, Phillies fans will be a little less critical.
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(All numbers as of May 23rd, 2013)