The Rockies needed to bolster their rotation this offseason. You knew it, I knew it, and GM Jeff Bridich knew it. But the acquisitions thus far have ranged from "who is that guy?" to "looks at Fangraphs page and vomits." No $100 million contracts or big name trades involving top prospects. It might fairly be described as "tinkering."
The most recent tinker toy is longtime Philly Kyle Kendrick. Pitching behind the likes of Roys Halladay and Oswalt, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, Kendrick was like the celery stick that comes with a Bloody Mary: always there, but never the main attraction.
Despite his general ho-hummity, Kendrick has eclipsed 30 starts four times in the last seven years, including each of the last two seasons. He has a career 4.42 ERA and 4.65 FIP, which aren't very good, but when you compare that to the typical Rockies fifth starter you start to rethink your definition of "good." He possesses every trick in the bag to compensate for a high-80s fastball; a cutter (threw it 26.8% of the time last year), a curve ball (9.4%), and change up (18.7%). He's an above-average, though not extreme, ground-baller with a 46.1% career rate. Recently he has settled into a mid-5 K/9 and mid-2 BB/9. The strikeouts don't wow you, but keeping free passes to a minimum is nice.
Two names shot through my mind when I read about the Kendrick signing: Duff Man and Moe Szyslak. Then I stopped watching the Simpsons and started thinking about the Rockies, and two other names came up: Jason Marquis and Jeremy Guthrie. All three players share a similar mold: veteran pitchers who had been in the league for several seasons; they never put up big-time numbers but were always solid, and they were brought in to be the last piece of the puzzle for the Rockies rotation as Spring Training loomed.
The season stats of Kendrick, Guthrie, and Marquis the season before joining the Rockies
|Kyle Kendrick (Phillies)
|Jeremy Guthrie (Orioles)
|Jason Marquis (Cubs)
Remarkably similar, huh? The only major difference is that Jeremy Guthrie had a far lower ground-ball rate, while Marquis and Kendrick were solidly above average. Now check out how Guthrie and Marquis fared in Colorado the next season.
Jeremy Guthrie was hot garbage while Jason turned in a reMarqabluis* strong season. What was the difference? Marquis limited home runs to an incredible degree, while Guthrie was doing the twirl-and-stare more than twice every nine innings. Add in a better BABIP and Marquis was exactly the veteran innings-eating groundball pitcher the Rockies needed to help propel them to the playoffs. He worked 216 efficient innings, taking a load off the bullpen in the process. 3.5 WAR is obviously nothing to scoff at, but it felt like his value was even higher than that.
*I am so sorry for this
Meanwhile, Guthrie was tied to a train and shipped out of town, Armin Tamzarian style.
So who is Kendrick going to be? Marquis or Guthrie? He has the groundball rate of Marquis, which is good, especially with the Rockies' Gold Glove studded infield. But he has the gopher-ball tendencies of Guthrie, which is bad. Also, Kendrick has never been as good as either pitcher in his career; during their primes Marquis and Guthrie were solid number three pitchers, while no one has ever considered Kendrick anything other than a number five. A remarkably consistent and durable number five, but a number five nonetheless.
I expect Kendrick to be somewhere in the middle, but it would be sort of impossible for him to fall anywhere else, like how any randomly picked golfer would end up somewhere in between Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley. If Kendrick can hold down a spot in the rotation all year it would prevent the club from having to call up the emergency team of Bergman/Flande/Whoever.
Kendrick can be a guy that you dump innings on. You don't generally think about the value of a dumpster, until you compare it with a dumpster fire.