One area that A.J. Preller has not touched yet on his Extreme Padres Makeover is the vaunted “Big 3” of Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross. While Ross was the All-Star last year and Cashner was the de facto ace to start the year and still turned in some absolute gems throughout the season, let’s not forget about Ian Kennedy either and see where he might take his game.
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Ian Kennedy had a great 2014, arguably his best season in the majors and that comes from a guy who won 21 games just a few years ago, was once held onto with a death grip by the Yankees in refusing to trade for Johan Santana, and finished 4th in Cy Young voting. This year he tied with Tyson Ross for the team lead in wins with 13, led the club in innings pitched by topping 200, and for good measure also led the Padres pitchers in strikeouts with 207. Well done, right? We’ll take more of the same, right? Why not more?
As Bill Baer takes a look here at 5 pitchers who are poised for even better 2015’s looking at those pitchers with high BABIP, or Batting Average on Balls In Play. The idea being that pitchers can only control so much. They can control who they walk, who they strikeout, and making sure their pitches don’t get cranked out of the ballpark.
If you watched much of Kennedy this past year, that assessment may not come as a surprise. He too seemed to have several starts where he had no-hitters going and then had just one bad inning. Or the innings where he gets a runner or two on base and then a ground ball finds a hole. The pop fly has his fielder misaligned and it drops two feet in front of him.
Now, much talk has gone on about how the Padres defense may in fact increase BABIP for the pitchers next season, but let’s assume independently this won’t happen or it will actually be negligible. Kennedy’s BABIP last year was .315 and of that, on ground balls it was .288. His career BABIP on ground balls was way down at .236. And don’t tell me that Arizona and Yankee infielders were that much better than the Padres crew last season. Over the course of the season, this could account for about 11-12 hits. Which can make a difference in ERA and more importantly – wins. Maybe when he has two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd last season there is a ground ball up the middle and this year he scoops up the grounder to end the inning?
Baseball is a long season, and sometimes luck and inches do make up the difference where skill lets off. If Kennedy can throw another 200 innings, they just might be better than last year’s and he can be the true veteran leader in the rotation this team desires him to be.