Ian Kennedy was counted upon to be the staff of the Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation. It hasn't been that way at all. Part of that has been command, part of it has been what stat buffs refer to as "regression" and it also has to do with the pressure he puts on himself.
In his 11th start of the season, he put together one of his best performances of the season -- one in which he played the part of ace. Yes, he was matched up against Tim Lincecum, who has simply been a shell of himself this season, but Kennedy pitched great. He threw a career-high 122 pitches, allowing only one run and five hits over seven and two-thirds innings.
That line is what we have all expected more of. However in 11 starts, he only has had seven "quality" starts and four that I would put under the fake stats category I call "ace starts."
An "ace start" is one in which the starter goes at least six inning and allows no more than two runs (earned or unearned) if he pitches six or seven innings, or three runs if he pitches eight or nine innings.
In 33 starts in 2011, he had 21 "ace" starts.
In the opinion of this lowly writer, a staff ace should have such starts over 50 percent of the time, especially on a team that is supposed to contend for the playoffs.
Kennedy is not there yet.
Manager Kirk Gibson said during the last homestand that part of Kennedy's issues have been that he is so focused on trying to throw a shutout every time that he gets frustrated with results and then gives up a little more. One of Kennedy's greatest traits has been his coolness under pressure and not letting the moment get to him. That hasn't been there this year. He has not been as effective when he has been in trouble.
Wednesday night, though, he was an ace again. A perfect example of this was in the sixth inning. He walked the first two batters, but then slammed the door. He made a play on a bunt to get the lead runner out at third base. Then, the Giants' two most dangerous hitters were up -- Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey. All he did was strike them both out.
Kennedy still has time to turn it around. The season is only a little more than a fourth of the way done.
If he can pitch consistently like he did on Wednesday night, the Diamondbacks just might be able to turn things around.
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