Let’s be honest: A lot of us don’t like Kyle Kendrick. I’m talking about Kyle Kendrick, the pitcher, and not Kyle Kendrick, the person, who I assume is a pretty swell guy with a pretty wife who lets him pose in awkward and embarrassing photo shoots like this one.
But this is not about Kyle Kendrick, the person-slash-model-slash-perennial prankee. This is about how he manages to succeed, in some capacity, at a sport in which he is not considered to even be an average player.
Wednesday night, in a tie game against the Florida Marlins, in a game that is as important as a game can be in May, Kendrick was charged with pitching, at the time, the biggest inning of the game – bottom of the eighth, tied at three. This all in light of the fact that there were no fewer than three pitchers who were not only better, but available, and that he had to snake his way through the middle of the Marlins lineup, which, if you’re keeping score, is pretty damn good.
Even today, knowing the outcome of the inning and the game, I’m still beside myself because I can’t quite comprehend how we got to the point where Kendrick, he who is without an outpitch, is a semi-important cog in the bullpen.
Sure, he won so many of us over with this delightful 2007 debut, but he got rocked in 2008 and thusly spent most of 2009 in the minor leagues. Then he grew some facial hair (in an attempt to absorb some of Roy Halladay’s awesomeness through a process known as beardmosis), and ended up making 31 starts in 2010 because every starter not named Roy or Cole got hurt, much to the chagrin of one Rich Dubee and in spite of the fact that he can’t strike anyone out to save his life.*
*Stat time: Of pitchers who pitched at least 150 innings in 2010, only one pitcher had a worse K/9 rate than Kyle Kendrick’s 4.18: Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn, who struck out 3.8 per nine. Predictably, he had an ERA of 5.42. That is not a coincidence.
Anyway, back to last night. After the Phillies tied the game in the top of the eighth, Charlie Manuel opted to send Kyle Kendrick to the hill in the bottom half of the inning, even though both Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo – two guys who will never be confused for Nick Blackburn – were not only available, but they were warming up in case Kyle got into trouble, which is about as far from a vote of confidence from your manager as you can get.
But by some miraculous feat, Kendrick was not only able to put up a zero, but he was also the pitcher of record and earned the win because the Phillies scored a pair of runs in the top half of the next inning. All this, despite the fact that he walked the leadoff hitter, gave up a single, and, in most impressive fashion, threw only four of his 12 pitches for strikes – that’s 33% – but he still managed to squirm out of trouble thanks to a very timely double play ball off the bat of John Buck that ended the inning.*
To recap: Roy Halladay allows one earned run over eight, gets the loss. Kyle Kendrick escapes trouble in spite of himself, gets the win. Baseball!
At this point, and in light of the events that occurred last night, I almost feel like it is time for us to embrace Kyle Kendrick as not only a bonafide Major Leaguer, but also a key component in the bullpen. After all, it takes some kind of skill to be able to do what he does (Pitch to contact, not strike guys out) and still come out smelling like a rose (3-2 record, more wins than Cliff Lee, 1.42 ERA).
So, I guess what I am saying is that Kyle Kendrick has a secret. And that secret is magic.
(Only known photo of The Kendrickorn, courtesy of Where’s Weems?)
Berthed in the mountainous regions of the state of Washington, The Kendrickorn can befuddle opposing hitters with a mix of mediocre sinkers and sliders while confounding them with a changeup that, while not offering any sort of deception or movement, will be wildly successful in confusing the opposing hitters while they and their wide eyes swing for the fences, only to ground out weakly to the second baseman. The Kendrickorn cares not for strikeouts, as he finds them to be the tools of the weak, for only a true Ace can have the stones to willfully allow his opponents to put the ball into play, with confidence so abundant that it literally alters the path of the ball in mid flight or bounce, thus rendering the argument of BABIP (which The Kendrickorn refers to as nerdagra) utterly and irrepressibly useless in it’s employment and design.
The Kendrickorn is your new Ace. The Kendrickorn is the new hotness. The Kendrickorn is that feeling in your gut that tells that you that it’s going to be just fine, even in the face of doom. The Kendrickorn is the last french fry lodged in the bottom of the bag. The Kendrickorn is the spoiler to every movie you’ve ever seen. The Kendrickorn is what makes cell phone technology possible.
The Kendrickorn is all of us.