Was Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy’s 2011 Cy Young-Cailber Season Just a Fluke?

Tony Medina/Getty Images Ian Kennedy has had an up-and-down six-year career in the major leagu...

Tony Medina/Getty Images
Ian Kennedy has had an up-and-down six-year career in the major leagues so far. He has been really good, average, and really bad, and he can’t seem to stick in one of those categories.

Obviously, the Arizona Diamondbacks would prefer him to fall in the latter category, but the team that drafted him with the 21st pick in the 2006 draft, the New York Yankees, saw the former side of him for about three years.

New York couldn’t fix him, so they ended up trading him to Arizona in a three-way trade for Curtis Granderson. Whose the real Ian Kennedy? The 2011 Cy Young contender or the Yankee-fallout?

There isn’t a clear answer. I’m making it sound like Kennedy was really bad with the Yankees, but that’s not exactly the case. In 2007, he totaled a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings. That’s not half bad.

But in 2008, he posted an 8.17 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched. So with a more sizable role, he regressed greatly. The next year he suffered an elbow injury, and ended up pitching just one lone inning.

So, from his stint with the Yankees, the obvious observation was that he was a work in progress, but possessed potential given his successful 2007 campaign. However, the Yankees don’t like to waste time on developing lost causes.

While Kennedy wasn’t quite a lost cause, they figured that they could get something in return for him in a trade. And so they did. New York received Granderson from the Detroit Tigers, while Detroit received Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson from Arizona, and Arizona acquired Kennedy.

Kennedy was thrown into the rotation right from the get-go. He didn’t start in the minors, nor was he ever demoted during the season, but he did start 32 games, and was solid. The right-hander went 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA to cap off his first full season as a starter.

What should be noted was the workload increase. During his three-year stint with New York, he started only 12 games. Ultimately, he started 20 more games one year later. The Diamondbacks weren’t blown away, but they were impressed.

Maybe this average season was just the peak of something special. Maybe even an ace was born were the thoughts roaming the surface in Arizona.

If 2011 was any indication, an ace was indeed born. Kennedy finished the season with a 21-4 record, a 2.88 ERA, a K/9 rate of 8/9, and surpassed the 200 innings plateau for the first time in his young career.

He was rewarded with a top five finish in the Cy Young voting process, but he ultimately set a building block for the future. The pitching starved Yankees seemingly let a valuable asset get away from them—maybe.

So why has he come crashing back down to earth in 2012? A mixture of bad luck, bad location, and somewhat of a regression.

Regression might not be the correct word because he’s only 27 and most 27 year-olds are in or just about to enter their primes. Kennedy though, has quickly returned to 2008 form. In 28 starts, he owns a 4.39 ERA and boasts a 12-11 record. Not so great.

However, Kennedy’s BABIP of .306 is a tad inflated. Maybe a little bad luck has been a factor in his fallout, but that’s merely the problem seeing that Arizona’s defense boasts the third best UZR/150 (2.9) in the N.L. Plus, his FIP (4.31), isn’t far off from his actual ERA of 4.39. Luck isn’t the problem here, folks.

The main area of concern is his abysmal location which is leading to bunches of home runs. In fact, he has allowed more than two home runs in a game eight times this year. Last year he did that just four times. In total, he has surrendered 27 home runs this year.

That mark is tied with Joe Blanton for the most long balls allowed in the N.L. Let’s not forget that he has at least three more starts to see that number rise.

Granted Chase Field isn’t the most pitcher friendly park in the world, but 13 of his 27 allowed home runs have come on the road. So Chase Field can’t take much of the blame. Kennedy’s horrible location can take most of the blame.

The ball is in Kennedy’s court. The ship has already sailed for a potential turnaround this year, but he has a couple of more starts to at least show the baseball world why he was a legitimate Cy Young contender last year. If he doesn’t, well, 2013 isn’t far off.

Kennedy probably isn’t the 2011 version of himself, and I doubt that he will ever post those types of numbers again. But in retrospect, he certainly isn’t the 2009 Kennedy either.

The million dollar question is: which Ian Kennedy will surface in 2013 and beyond?

This article was originally published at MLB Reports.  

MLB Reports is a partner of FootBasket. You can see more about them at their website. Follow them on Twitter @MLBReports

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