For Pete's Sake

Nine things to know about pitcher Ian Kennedy

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Ian Kennedy waited as Seattle’s Brad Miller rounded third after hitting a two-run home run during a game in June.
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Ian Kennedy waited as Seattle’s Brad Miller rounded third after hitting a two-run home run during a game in June. The Associated Press

The Royals reportedly have reached a deal with free-agent pitcher Ian Kennedy

Here are nine things to know about the man who could be the Royals’ new starting pitcher.

1. Start with the basics: He was 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA in 30 starts in 2015 with the San Diego Padres. He struck out 174 and walked 52 in 168 1/3 innings. His strikeouts-to-walk ratio was 3.35. His xFIP was 3.70 (xFIP is described by FanGraphs as being an “estimate of a pitcher’s run prevention independent of the defense”). He allowed 31 home runs, fourth most in the league.

2. Kennedy had a lousy start and finish to the 2015 season. He injured his hamstring in his first start with the Padres in April and had a 7.15 ERA by the end of May after making eight starts.

But from June through August, Kennedy had a 2.63 ERA in 16 starts, during which opponents hit .229. He struck out 93 in 95 2/3 innings.

In his last six starts of the 2015 season, Kennedy had a 5.61 ERA and opponents hit .297.

3. His strikeouts per nine innings has increased steadily in 2010, when it was 7.8. Since then: 8.0 in 2011; 8.08 in 2012; 8.10 in 2013; 9.27 in 2014 and 9.30 in 2015. Of course, Kennedy pitched in the National League each of those years.

4. Last July, Kennedy was with the Padres in Miami when his wife, Allison, went into labor. Kennedy tried to get back to his California, according to the Associated Press, but his flight was delayed. So Kennedy watched the birth on FaceTime. Two hours later, he started against the Marlins. He allowed two runs in seven innings and left with a lead. However, the game went to extra innings and the Padres won 8-3 in 11 innings.

Kennedy got a no-decision, but the birth of Evelyn Nicole was much more important, of course.

“After I was done, all of the emotions just came out, and I started crying on the bench because I get to go home to see her, and I just want to hold her,” Kennedy said.

5. Tony Blengino of FanGraphs wrote about Kennedy and his potential fit with the Royals just two days ago. It’s well worth reading. Here’s a small, but interesting, excerpt from that piece:

Kennedy is a clear fly-ball pitcher, posting a fly-ball rate percentile rank of 85 in 2015. This is not a new development, as his fly-ball percentile rank has been 76 or higher in five of his six qualifying seasons. On the plus side, a fly-ball tendency usually carries with it some free outs in the form of pop ups. For the sixth straight season, he had a higher-than-average pop-up rate, with a 60 percentile rank.

6. Kennedy was originally drafted the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round of the 2003 draft. He didn’t sign and was drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Yankees. That was the year the Royals took Luke Hochevar No. 1 overall.

7. Kennedy’s best season was in 2011 when he went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA with a 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting (Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers won, followed by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee of the Phillies). Kennedy also was 14th in MVP voting. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun won.

8. According to FanGraphs, Kennedy allowed the highest percentage of hard-hit balls in 2015 among qualified pitchers at 35.2 percent. A.J. Burnett of the Pirates was second (34.1 percent) and Tom Koehler of the Marlins (34.0 percent).

9. He was the runner-up for the 2011 Gold Glove award. He has committed five errors in his career and four came in the 2012 season.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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