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Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt
2008-08-08 22:25
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Last night, Ian Kennedy's third stint in the Yankee rotation this year started off much like the previous two. Unable to record an out in the third inning, Kennedy was pulled after allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk and getting just six outs. Kennedy only walked one man and did a decent job of throwing first-pitch strikes (doing so to 12 of 16 batters, including all five men he faced in his scoreless second inning), but he simply wasn't getting people out. Ten of the 16 men he faced reached base safely. What's more, he wasn't fooling anyone. Three of his 12 first-pitch strikes were put in play as hits. In total, the Angels swung at 22 of Kennedy's 61 pitches. Only three swings failed to make contact, while 14 of them put the ball in play.

The first four batters Kennedy faced in the first inning hit ground balls, two of which got through for singles, and a third would have had it not hit the mound and ricocheted to Robinson Cano for a fielder's choice at second. With men on first and second, Kennedy grooved an 86-mile-per-hour fastball right down Broadway to Torii Hunter, who crushed it to the 387-foot sign in the left-center-field gap. Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera converged on the ball, with Melky appearing to call for it, but Damon lept in front of Cabrera, slamming his already tender left shoulder into the wall and missing the ball, which fell for a two-RBI double (Damon's fine and Melky didn't really appear to have a play).

Kennedy then got Garret Anderson to pop out on a full count to end the inning, but Howie Kendrick led off the second with another booming double to the same spot on a hanging curve. Juan Rivera flied out to the wall in dead center to move Kendrick to third, and Kennedy responded by walking the Angels' ninth-place hitter, Jeff Mathis, but then managed to strand both runners by striking out Chone Figgins swinging on a perfectly placed cutter just under the hands (Kennedy's only K of the game) and getting Erick Aybar to ground out.

That was the only positive sequence in Kennedy's brief outing. In the third, he was again greeted by a double, this one a hard shot down the right field line off the bat of Mark Teixeira. Four singles followed, the first a well-placed grounder through the first-base hole by Vlad Guerrero, the next a slow hopper to shortstop that Derek Jeter booted, and the last two flares that dropped in just fair behind first and third base. Still, Kennedy had given up his share of hard-hit balls before that sequence, wasn't fooling anyone, and was five batters and three runs deep in the inning and still hadn't gotten an out.

Darrell Rasner came on and got two outs on three pitches without another run scoring, then struck out Figgins to end the inning. Rasner allowed just one run over the next three innings, and the Yankees snuck back into the game with two runs in the sixth on an Xavier Nady solo homer and a Robinson Cano triple that was cashed in by a Melky Cabrera groundout to first base.

That brought the Yankees within one run of the Angels, but Rasner couldn't hold it any longer. Torii Hunter, who was 4 for 5 on the night with 4 RBIs and a great first-inning catch on a dead run toward the wall in center, led off the seventh with a home run. After a groundout, a Howie Kendrick single drove Rasner from the game in favor of Brian Bruney, who proceeded to allow Hendrick and two of his teammates to score, inflating the Angels' lead to 10-5, which is how it ended.

After the game, Kennedy seemed disturbingly undisturbed by his poor outing. Flashing his "What Me Worry?" grin, this is what he had to say for himself:

"It's the first bad outing I've had in a long time. I'm not going to look much into it. I felt like I made some good pitches. Yeah, I got the leadoff hitter on quite a bit [twice in three innings], but got out of it in the second inning. I'm not too upset about it. . . . Even on their singles, like, what, ground balls? [shrugs] So, that's not a big deal. Gave up a couple doubles [three], but I felt like I made some good pitches and competed, which is all that really matters. . . What was it? A bunch of singles and three doubles, or so. I'm just not real upset about it. I'm just gonna move on. I've already done that." [big grin]

All that really matters, aye, Ike? I was high on Kennedy coming into this season, but he's had three chances this year and nothing has changed. After watching him grin his way through his post-game comments, I'm not sure he thinks anything needs to, which could be his biggest problem.

Asked what he'd been doing right in triple-A over the last month that differentiated his success there from his poor outing last night, Kennedy replied, "Honestly, it's quite a bit the same. I just got ahead of guys. I felt like I made good pitches when I tried to get them out. I jammed some guys, got some bloop hits at the end. That second inning, which I told you earlier, I got that leadoff double, and he didn't score. I've been working on throwing that cutter inside and it got me out of that jam. . . . I don't know, I felt like I got ahead of guys fine."

It's one thing to be able to put a bad outing out of your head and accentuate the positive. It's another to be in total denial. Joe Girardi's evaluation of Kennedy's performance was that he got in bad counts with runners on base, forcing him to throw gimme strikes, and that he was leaving his pitches up in the zone. Said Girardi, "You have to make quality pitches on a consistent basis if you want to pitch deep into games and win ballgames," implying that Kennedy did not do that last night. In the YES booth, Ken Singleton and David Cone commented on Kennedy's failure to mix up location or make much of any use of his curveball. Apparently, Kennedy's not going to worry about any of that, though.

So, is Phil Hughes ready yet?

Comments
2008-08-09 03:46:45
1.   Simone
I don't understand why the public requires self-flagellation from athletes to show that they "care." It must the reality tv generation that wants to see everything or maybe it is the Oprah thing where people must share their pain. Kennedy is obviously refuses to express his doubts and concerns openly in the media. It doesn't meant that his head in the sand or that he is in denial.

Kennedy is young and is still learning his craft. It isn't like he is the first or only Yankee pitcher to get knocked around by the Angels this year.

2008-08-09 04:55:36
2.   JL25and3
1 No one's asking for self-flagellation. A little self-awareness - hell, a little better contact with reality - would help.

I'm sorry, but those comments go well beyond a refusal to express doubts and concerns openly.

2008-08-09 05:24:01
3.   The Mick 536
I'll take outs. Kennedy remains in denial. ignoring the fact that he doesn't have major league stuff. I counted on him and I counted on Mr. Edwards. Both busts.
2008-08-09 05:31:53
4.   Sliced Bread
The kid's not ready for the show, the Yanks knew this, and threw him to the Los Angeles Lobos of Anaheim anyway - out of desperation. That's last night's story.

I'm with Simone. I see no need to pick apart the kid's facial expressions, and conditioned lack-of-doubt afterward. He's bred to shrug off bad outings. Cut him some slack.

Besides, who's really in denial here? The kid, or the desperate dolts who gave him the ball, knowing pretty much how it was going to end up? They kept saying he wasn't ready. What did they expect? That's the story. Not Ian's feckless grin.

2008-08-09 05:32:58
5.   JoeInRI
1 I'gm sorry, if I had pitched that poorly at my 3rd go 'round in the bigs, I'd be ripshite. IPK seems to think last night's failure was neither A. A big deal, nor B. His fault.

Wrong on both counts kid.

2008-08-09 05:55:07
6.   Sliced Bread
5 what difference would it make if Ian pounded his chest, faced the cameras, yelled "I pitched like crap! Couldn't get anybody out!" and set his locker ablaze?

It wouldn't erase the loss, nor would it change everybody's very strong impression that he's not ready -- nor would it change my impression that the Yanks themselves are denial if they give him the ball again 5 days from now.

2008-08-09 06:03:54
7.   JoeInRI
6 No, I would have been satisfied with a simple "I sucked. I need to do a better job at this point, because this isn't my first rodeo."

Kennedy's problem is in his head, not his arm and I think the interview reflects that.

2008-08-09 06:16:05
8.   Sliced Bread
7 I'm not so sure the problem is his head, and not his arm.
Maybe his arm is only good enough to give the Yanks what they've been getting out of him. Maybe he's a classic AAAA case.
The Yanks had concerns about his stuff (arm stuff, that is) days before they gave him the ball.
The kid's mental makeup was one of the key reasons the Yanks had been so high on him.
They liked his poise, confidence, command, etc. All that has served him well at AAA, which is why he remains confident (or in denial as others observe).
I'm not sure what the problem is, but I don't think he should get another start in the bigs right away.
2008-08-09 06:19:12
9.   OldYanksFan
My feeling is that when judging a small sample size of a pitcher's performance for part of one game, the only real issue is:
1) How well the ball was hit
2) If the ball was a linedrive or not
3) If the ball was hot into the stands

It's funny. When Jeter or ARod smash the ball, but Due To The Random Chaotic Nature of Baseball (DTRCNB) it's right to the SS, and it turns into a DP, we are all pissed at the batter. However, if the ball is NOT hit as well, but DTRCNB it finds a hole, it's "YEAH! CLUTCH BABY".

When players hit ground balls, they do not control whether it's hit 2 steps from the SS (for an out) or 4 steps from the SS (for a hit).

Yes... we look and judge by outcome. On outs, sometimes we say 'at least he hit it hard'. But the truth is, it is ALL determined by RCNB. It's luck, fate, destiny, whatever.

Even the Angel announcers (hard to listen to) kept saying how the 'hits had eyes'. On another day, the big scoring 3rd inning could have just as easily been a dominating 1-2-3 inning. 2 ground balls, another that Jetes boots, and 2 flairs. 5 guys got on base. It could have just as easily been 5 outs.

And again, with better D by JD (or Melky?) and Jetes, there's 3 less runs.

Did I think IPK pitched well? Not really. The doubles (including the ball missed by JD) were hit hard. Some of the outs were hit hard. But the score did not tell the story.

Between JD and Jetes, seeing eye hits and bloops, IPK was on the wrong side of RCNB. Just pointing that out before we declare him a bust.

2008-08-09 06:26:44
10.   Sliced Bread
9 good points.
2008-08-09 06:28:21
11.   monkeypants
I don't know, I have read his comments over and over again, I am not sure I see what the big deal is. Everything he said was more or less accurate. In fact, compare these Kennedy quotes:

"I'm not too upset about it. . . . Even on their singles, like, what, ground balls? [shrugs] So, that's not a big deal."

AND

"Honestly, it's quite a bit the same. I just got ahead of guys. I felt like I made good pitches when I tried to get them out. I jammed some guys, got some bloop hits at the end."

With Cliff's analysis of the third inning:

"Four singles followed, the first a well-placed grounder through the first-base hole by Vlad Guerrero, the next a slow hopper to shortstop that Derek Jeter booted, and the last two flares that dropped in just fair behind first and third base."

Meanwhile, Girardi says that he got into bad counts with runners on, forcing him to throw cookies. But is that true? I just went through the gameday play-by-play, and that doesn't seem like an accurate assessment. Three of the last five hits he gave up (in the third inning) came on 0-0 or 0-1 counts. In the first, Torii Hunter's double came on an 0-0 count. In teh second he put two men on and then got ahead of the next two batters 1-2 before recording outs. He di get behind a number of batters, some of whom got hits and some made outs. But the play-by-play does not support Girardi's analysis of the problem.
.
.
.
Kennedy had a rough outing last night, no doubt. And maybe it would make us feel better if he looked sad after the game, or if he made better selections from the cliche handbook. But I'm not sure his own assessment of his performance was particularly inaccurate (who knows, maybe this is precisely what he did in AAA, and if so, how else would he react?), nor do I think his manager's comments particular insightful.

2008-08-09 06:28:30
12.   JL25and3
9 If we were just judging him on a small sample in one game, you'd have a point. But you've also said pretty much the same thing about every one of his starts: they didn't hit the ball well, the defense let him down, if a couple of pitches had been better, if the umps hadn't squeezed him and so on.

Kennedy was awful. He went to the minors, came back and was awful. He got hurt, spent more time in the minors, came back and got six outs. At what point do you stop saying that he's had bad luck and start talking about bad pitching?

2008-08-09 06:31:47
13.   OldYanksFan
8 "I'm not so sure the problem is his head, and not his arm."
-----------------------------------------
Does IPK have better 'stuff' then Giese? Razner? Karstens? Doesn't Moose's renaissance tell use that commad and pitch selection is what tells the story? Farns has great stuff but sucks.

IPK is a command pitcher. If he pitches to the fat part of the plate, he gets hit hard. We all know his 'stuff' (speed, movement) is average.

His command is about experience, confidence and a good day. Will he ever get there? I don't know. Here's my guess. If he were on a lousy team, with lousy pitchers, and allowed to pitch for a season without the words 'bust', 'Santana' and 'AAAA' coming up, his resume tells us he SHOULD be at least a MLB #5.

Like Carlos Pena and many others, the Yankees just don't have the time and situation to allow failure. Karstens threw 7.66 PERFECT IP the other day. It ain't easy to be a kid on the NY yankees.

2008-08-09 06:46:02
14.   OldYanksFan
12 2 guys in their FIRST/INITIAL IP.
------------ IP Hit ER HR BB Ks ERA
Player A: 86.0 102 62 11 54 64 6.49
Player B: 58.2 063 40 06 35 42 6.14
Question: Who projects better??

(A) Johan Santana, (B) Ian Kennedy

How much time do you want to give him?
How much time should we have given Pena? Leiter? Juan Rivera? Do you want the whole list?

2008-08-09 07:20:00
15.   JL25and3
14 This is like the Melky-Bernie comparisons. Just because a set of stats looks superficially similar doesn't mean they're at all comparable.

First of all, Santana was pitching out of the bullpen at the time.

Second, they're entirely different types of pitchers, and that makes a world of difference. If Kennedy had Santana's stuff (and were pitching in long relief) I'd probably feel differently about it.

Kennedy hasn't been mediocre this year, he's been awful. Even the Pirates shouldn't allow him to keep pitching all year with an ERA north of 8.

Would you like me to counter your list with a list of young players who looked bad and turned out to be bad? Just because a young player performs badly doesn't mean he's a diamond in the rough. I get tired of the specious comparisons.

2008-08-09 07:29:06
16.   monkeypants
15 Very good point, but in OYF's defense, Kennedy has a very strong track record in the minors, which many (most?) other young players who perform badly can't match. So all OYF is really arguing, using a different rhetorical method, is that IPKs larger college and (more importantly) MiL data set should be given greater weight.
2008-08-09 07:38:25
17.   pistolpete
Kennedy is going to find out pretty quick what the fans think of 'arrogance without performance'...
2008-08-09 07:49:18
18.   mehmattski
IPK has a BABIP of .336. His hit balls, by trajectory:

Ground Balls: 58
Fly Balls: 62
Line Drives: 18

Just 13% line drives is not all that troubling. What we're looking at is one unlucky pitcher. That, plus the high number of walks, is what's led to the high ERA. When the BABIP comes down, Kennedy will be the #3/#4 starter we all thought he would be.

2008-08-09 07:54:25
19.   monkeypants
I far prefer Andy Pettitte's honesty and humility. For example, on July 31 he stunk it. Here's what Newsday had to say:

"Pettitte (12-8, 4.18 ERA), who didn't seem thrilled about throwing to a new catcher, called his outing "terrible," "embarrassing," "pathetic" and "ridiculous." No one who saw it would disagree."

After that honest appraisal--no arrogance mind you--Pettitte went out and got spanked again five days later.

You know what, I don't care all too much what the players say after the game, whether they play the angry card or the contrite card or the confident card or the defiant card. I'm rather more concerned about performance.

2008-08-09 08:02:19
20.   OldYanksFan
15 - 17 I am NOT comparing them. Your question was 'How much time'? Well, how much time would YOU have given Santana? 56 Ip? 75 IP? My point is that 58 IP or even 86 IP DOES NOT TELL THE STORY!

SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wasburn is a #4 at best, probable #5. He costs $9m. IPK costs $0.4m. As a businessman, is it worth giving IPK enough time so you can determine the type of MLB pitcher he may be?

2008-08-09 08:14:27
21.   Zack
I'm going to come down somewhere in between here, and honestly, I don't see why it has to be such an extreme debate.

By all measures of pitching, Kennedy has been terrible this year. His postgame comments don't show the "grit" or "humility" of Andy Pettitte, but they also, to me, betray a lot of frustration.

At the same time, as 18 points out, Kennedy has been terribly unlucky, and in theory, the more he pitches that should round out, assuming he stops walking guys.

So Kennedy is certainly not as good as his AAA #'s suggest, but then we've always known that.

But he's not as bad as his current ML #'s suggest, and we've probably already known that too. It's possible that his BABIP is so high because his pitches stink, but I doubt it.

I'm sorry, but you don't put up those #s in the minors and then totally suck in the majors. Its not like Kennedy was putting up just ok #s, he dominated. The kid can pitch, we know that, he just needs some time to figure it out and stop getting the snot kicked out of him.

And therein lies the rub: Kennedy is obviously not going to learn anything by pitching in AAA, he can get those hitters out already. He needs to be pitching in the majors and learning on the job.

On the other hand, the team really can't afford to have Kennedy getting shellacked every 5 days, especially when the rest of your rotation has Dan Giese and Sidney Ponson in it.

So the Yanks are in a tough spot, and I suspect Kennedy will be given but one more start to "work it out" until Mr. Hughes gets his chance

2008-08-09 09:23:14
22.   JL25and3
20 My question wasn't how much time you give Kennedy before writing him off; that was a straw man, and one reason the debate started to look extreme. My question was how much time you give before you start saying he's been pitching terribly.

Johan Santana and Carlos Pena don't enter into it. Nor does Jarrod Washburn, since I've never wanted him. Kennedy is what they've got, but that doesn't make his pitching any better. You're saying that if they leave him alone, you think he can develop into a 5.00 ERA fifth starter - which is also saying that, at this point, he's not even that.

I'll buy that he's had some bad luck. He's also had more than his share of bad pitching. I agree with the dilemma as Zack's laid it out: he's not been successful in the majors, but AAA doesn't help. I don't know what the answer is, but - as with Melky - pretending that he's fine doesn't help much either.

2008-08-09 09:42:57
23.   3rd gen yankee fan
Cliff I think you're right. I'm really starting to worry about this kid. There's looking for a silver lining, and then there's Kennedy.
2008-08-09 09:57:29
24.   ChrisS
Obviously the best course of action is to trade him a vet that has proved his worth. Preferably one with some all-star games under their belt.

The fans truly will get the team that they deserve.

2008-08-09 10:27:59
25.   weeping for brunnhilde
18 But shouldn't we be more (or at least as) interested not in the type of ball hit, but how well struck it is?

I mean, there's the groundballs Cano and Matsui hit to second when they pull off and then there are sharply hit groundballs. Shouldn't we factor this in as a metric of pitcher's performance?

2008-08-09 12:07:34
26.   mehmattski
26 What about the possible double-play ball that Kennedy induced in the third inning? That wasn't struck particularly well, and Jeter booted it (and should have been charged with an error). Then Garret Anderson hit a ball off his shoes for a single, and Kendrick's offering was equally weak.

So if you're looking at how "well struck" the balls were, last night at least Kennedy was extremely unlucky. Add in Torii Hunter's double, which hit Johnny Damon's glove, and you've got a recipe for a disastrous night.

All the evidence suggests that a pitcher with a BABIP above .325 will see some correction, and as a result his ERA will fall. Those studies never took into account how hard a ball was hit, and still showed significant results.

2008-08-09 12:46:18
27.   weeping for brunnhilde
26 You misunderstand me. I wasn't arguing anything about Kennedy's performance, I was just offering up that we appeared to have missed a mode of evaluation that might have been helpful.

It wasn't a challenge.

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