We have to talk about Kyle Kendrick.
When the Rockies signed Kendrick to a one-year, $5.5 million contract, the move had its detractors and defenders. The detractors offered a simple argument: he’s not good. From 2007 to 2014, Kendrick amassed a 4.42 ERA and a 4.65 FIP in 185 starts for the Phillies. The defenders, and I count myself among them, submitted a similarly uncomplicated claim: while he’s not good, he’s good enough. His ERA and FIP for his career were unimpressive, but he was also decent at limiting walks (2.6 per nine) and home runs (1.1 per nine). Not only that, but he can fill out innings on two levels. From 2012 to 2014, he threw 159, 182, and 199 innings. Additionally, of Kendrick’s 32 starts last season, he pitched at least five innings in all 32 of them, at least six in 21, and at least seven in 12. He could consume innings.
It’s time for the defenders to re-think things.
After Kendrick’s excellent debut, where he threw seven shutout innings on Opening Day against the Brewers, he has done nothing but falter. His game log since is not pretty: eight runs in five innings, six runs in four and two-thirds innings, four runs in seven innings, eight runs in four and one-third innings, and, today, six runs in five innings. Kendrick has now allowed 32 runs in 33 innings, which amounts to an ERA of 8.73. He’s also given up ten home runs—five at home and five on the road. The sample is no longer so small. His six starts compose about one-fifth of what the Rockies hoped to get out of Kendrick for the season.
It might be time for the Rockies to seriously question whether or not Kendrick is fit to occupy a roster spot. If the Rockies do decide to cut-bait and designate Kendrick for assignment, they would have to fill his spot in the rotation, and it's not clear that other options are preferable. Here are some possible replacements.
On the 40-man
Christian Bergman: Bergman is currently serving as the long-reliever. The problem with putting Bergman in the rotation is that he seems to be very well cast in that role. He has a 1.26 ERA in 14 and one-third innings. Additionally, Bergman’s stint in the rotation last season is not an endorsement for future inclusion. He started ten games in 2014 and finished the season with a 5.93 ERA.
Chad Bettis: Bettis only pitched out of the bullpen in 2014, but so far this season he’s started four games at Triple-A Albuquerque. The results, however, have not been very promising. He’s walked almost three batters per nine and has struck out 6.5 per nine, both contributing to a 4.50 ERA.
David Hale: The Rockies traded for David Hale during the offseason, and he was thought to be one of the first in line as rotation depth before he got injured during spring training. Since returning, he’s started two games for the Albuquerque Isotopes, and they have been ugly. Hale has allowed 15 hits and 10 runs in just six innings pitched.
Chris Rusin: Like Lannan, Rusin last started a major league game in 2013. In four starts and 21 and two-thirds innings pitched for the Isotopes so far this season, Rusin has a stupendously bad 1.8 WHIP. His 6.23 ERA also leaves much to be desired.
Not on the 40-man
Yohan Flande: Flande also started ten games for the Rockies in 2014, and he also had an ERA that approached six for those games. Flande is, however, pitching well out of the rotation in Double-A New Britain so far this season. He has a 2.19 ERA in four starts, and he’s only walked about a batter an inning over his first 24 innings pitched.
John Lannan: The 30 year old Lannan has 148 career starts, the last of which came in 2013. Experience doesn’t translate to good, however—Kyle Kendrick himself is evidence of that. Lannan has allowed 20 base runners in 14 Triple-A innings pitched so far this season, and he might not wear another major league uniform in his career.
Jon Gray: Nope.
None of these pitchers are great options. If the Rockies do choose to remove Kendrick from the roster, they are going to replace him with a flawed pitcher. Lannan and Rusin are probably worse versions of Kendrick, so I don’t see either of them as a solution. Every year, Bettis’s stuff makes him alluring, but he has yet to demonstrate that he can translate his stuff into ability. Hale has recent big league success as a starting pitcher for the Braves, but right now he can’t get Triple-A hitters out. Bergman is just too well suited as a long reliever—and whoever might replace Kendrick won’t be someone to eliminate the need of long relief, of that I am sure. That leaves Flande, who I guess would be my choice to replace Kendrick if the Rockies do decide to make a move. But then we have to live with 25 Yohan Flande starts—if we’re lucky.
The six runs Kendrick gave up today leave an especially bitter taste. In a game that James Shields started at Petco Park, the Rockies were able to hit four home runs and tally six runs. That really should be enough for a road victory. Instead, the Rockies finish up their road trip with a 1-5 record and limp back to Coors Field on a five game skid.
It might not be time for a change, but it is time to start thinking about one.