He’s no ace, but Kendrick could provide more than most people expect for the Rockies in 2015.
Two things are probably true of most of us in the last week or so: 1) We have been perhaps slightly distracted from baseball by college basketball and 2) We were not especially thrilled to hear that Walt Weiss had selected Kyle Kendrick as his opening-day starter.
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The first is no longer true for me, as my Georgia Bulldogs were predictably taken down by Michigan State in the first round. The second, well … I guess you could say I’m coming around. Look, no one in his right mind is going to say that Kendrick is anything like an ace. He never has been, and there’s no indication that the Rockies picked him up expecting that to change. He’s any other team’s fourth or fifth starter, and for the Rockies he could slot as high as number three. This is primarily due to something we’d be gravely mistaken to undervalue: Kendrick’s reliability. He has not missed significant time for an injury at any point in his major league playing career, which is why I was happy we signed him. Pretty much every starting pitcher we’ve had over the last several years has lost a lot of time due to injury, and this has hurt the Rockies more than anything.
Maybe Dick Monfort and Dan O’Dowd were not as clued in as they should have been about the amount and type of talent on their roster, but whenever they’ve said that injuries have hurt the team’s ability to play well, they’ve been right. Assuming the cause of all these injuries isn’t some evil altitude monster that sucks out people’s souls (and leaves finger tentacles behind), Kendrick should provide the Rockies with 150 much-needed innings this season.
But I’ve said all this before. Why does any of this mean he should start opening day? The most obvious reason seems to be Jorge De La Rosa‘s strong showing at Coors Field. Having Kendrick start at Miller Park in Milwaukee allows DLR to take the home opener a few days later. It is in the team’s best interest to have DLR start at home as much as possible this season, even though the reasons for his success are elusive. He has confidence, and we need a pitcher with confidence on that mound.
Additionally, as Purple Row’s Matt Gross points out, the whole first month of the season features heavily right-handed lineups on the days the opening day starter would fall, and that data also reveals that Kendrick will not face too many tough hitters in that month either (other than–maybe–Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp). This gives Kendrick the opportunity to settle in with his new team and get some early successes. Ideally, anyway. There are no sure things in that schedule, so everything could blow up and we could find ourselves out of the race by the end of April. But I would like to see how this plan works out first.
Using Kendrick is also, in some ways, a concession to the fact that the Rockies don’t really have a true ace. DLR is fantastic at home, but mediocre when stacked up against the average MLB pitcher. Jhoulys Chacin still has that ace potential, but he’s yet to complete a season which makes that a reality. Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek, and David Hale are all just fine, but none of the above is an ace. You should always play to win, but if you’re facing Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner or James Shields, 90% of the time it doesn’t matter if your team gives up one run or twelve. They’re probably not going to win. Kendrick can make sure those games don’t burn the bullpen and that other, potentially better starters are preserved for games where we might have a chance. Of course I wish we had a bona fide ace who could be counted on to keep the team in the game in those situations, but we just don’t. So my answer to the question why Kendrick is, why not?