Posts Tagged ‘Ian Kennedy’
Saturday, August 11th, 2012
After winning the World Series back in 2001, the D-backs were set for immortality. After all, the championship came in just their fourth full major league season and their roster was packed. The problem was the team was old (there was no one under 31 in the front nine), and it was only a matter of time before it needed to be retooled.
Still, D-backs fans had reason to hope: the team sported a solid ownership and front office, a good scouting staff and a solid minor league system. Which is why it’s somewhat of a surprise that the team hasn’t returned to the series since, while making a run at it in 2007 and being in the hunt in 2011.
This was supposed to be the year. Early season projections had Arizona winning the N.L. West, based on an improved starting rotation and a bullpen that was a surprise in 2011. Give 2011′s 29 game improvement over the previous year, this made sense: the D-backs got a new ground ball pitcher in Trevor Cahill in a trade with the A’s, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was pegged to have a breakout year and the team signed slugger Jason Kubel to roam the outfield.
But things haven’t gone as planned in the Valley of the Sun — and it starts, as always, with pitching. The D-backs have a less-than-stellar 3.93 team ERA, and while their front line rotation doesn’t walk anyone, it gives up a lot of hits: opponents are batting a disturbing .259 against them. Only five other N.L. teams are worse.
The problems start with Ian Kennedy. A 21 game winner in the 2011 campaign, Kennedy has won all of 11 games this year, while his ERA has ballooned to 4.34. Then there’s Daniel Hudson, a sixteen game winner last year. This year? He’s just emerged from Tommy John surgery — an injury that’s the equivalent of a knock-down punch for a team least prepared to suffer it.
The rest of the rotation has been a blur: Joe Saunders and Trevor Cahill have been serviceable, though not brilliant, with Wade Miley emerging as the good news. The former first rounder (in 2008) has become the staff ace, with a 12-7 record and a 2.85 ERA.
And then there’s Justin Upton: his power numbers are down, he’s been booed by fans, and his play has bordered on laziness. Last month, on the eve of the trade deadline, General Manager Kevin Towers called him into his office and informed him that if the D-backs got an overwhelming offer (a young ace to buttress their staff) they’d ship him out of town.
Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Long about this time in the season we begin to drop the phrase “well, it’s still early” — and try to figure out why some teams are “overperforming” while other aren’t. The people who are in the business of predicting would say (for instance) that the Washington Nationals, at 14-8, are overperforming, while the Arizona Diamondbacks, at 12-11, are underperforming.
D-Backs fans are a tad worried: the team started at 5-1, but then went into a tailspin. There was good reason for this: the Snakes lost their top-of-the-rotation starter, Daniel Hudson, to “right shoulder impingement,” superstar center fielder Justin Upton is nursing a sore thumb and flailing at the ball (.242 with two lousy homers), and the D-Backs bullpen isn’t what it was last year — with a 4.76 ERA before yesterday’s tilt against the Marlins.
In truth, injuries have decimated the D-Backs. At one time or another over the last month Takashi Saito, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Daniel Hudson and Geoff Blum were all on the disabled list — or still are. Their fill-ins have been adequate, but the loss of Stephen Drew and Chris Young (and Hudson), has put holes in the line-up and rotation and provided added pressures for manager Kirk Gibson.
But the biggest problem for the Snakes (outside of the unpredictable injuries), is their bullpen. The pen gave away five total games in April, compared with only 14 for the team in all of 2011. David Hernandez might have lost a little off his fastball, Takashi Saito’s loss removes a steady middle-innings presence, and closer J.J. Putz has been less than his usual stellar self — sporting an embarrassing 4.70 ERA.
Thank God for Joe Saunders. While Arizona fans whinge on about all their problems, Saunders has proven he’s the staff ace. He leads the league in ERA (0.90) and WHIP (a nearly unheard of 0.87), which means that when he pitches he doesn’t give up hits or walks. That he’s lost a single game is something of an anomaly. Oh, and fellow starter Ian Kennedy is 3-0 with a none-too-shabby 3.38 ERA.
Then too, the Diamondbacks seem to keep generating good pitching. There’s Saunders, Kennedy — and now Wade Miley, a first round pick by Arizona in 2008. Miley rocketed his way through the D-Backs system, but the Arizona brain trust has been taking their time with him. Even so, he’s ahead of the curve. He’s 3-0 this year, with 15 strikeouts in 21 innings. Phew . . .
The final piece of good news is that Arizona’s decision to throw some money at free agent Jason Kubel has worked out well — and perhaps even better than anticipated. Kubel’s left handed power appealed to G.M. Kevin Towers, and while Arizona fans noted glumly that playing Kubel would send fan favorite Gerardo Parra to the bench, Towers’ move proved prescient, particularly given Young’s injury. Kubel has been as advertised: three home runs with a .333 average.
In the glass-half-empty world of D-Backs fans, the spate of injuries to key Arizona players, the so-so (or worse) performance of the bullpen, and the “mixed bag” of April seem to portend rough riding through the rest of the season. After all, the team is in the same division as the Los Angeles Kemps and the ever-interesting, pitching heavy McCovey’s. But if we were to bet on where Arizona would be, say, on October 1, we’d still wager they’d be at the top of their division.
Saturday, September 10th, 2011
A regular reader of ours, an L.A. native, keeps pounding away about his beloved Dodgers — and like all good partisan fans, he predicted they’d win the N.L. West and then sweep their way through the post-season. “They’re the new Giants,” he said last April, “except that they’re better.”
Such expectations have not been realized: the Dodgers are a single game under .500, and are mired in third place on the left coast — well behind the disappointing Giants, and twelve games out of first place. This hasn’t stopped this fan from continuing his verbal assault. “Yeah,” he says. “But what about Clayton Kershaw? You have to admit, now, c’mon. Kershaw’s the best pitcher in the National League.”
Our tactic has been to ignore this, while reminding him of his April prediction — and what has happened in L.A. since. But at least when it comes to Kershaw, he has a point. If there’s one bit of good news that Nationals fans can take away from their most recent soggy series with the Trolleys (they lost two of three), it’s that at least they didn’t have to face Kershaw. And last night, against San Francisco, Kershaw put himself in the running for the Cy Young, outdueling the McCovey’s Tim Lincecum — and throwing an eight inning, three hit, nine strikeout gem.
Kershaw is now 18-5, and measures up well against the other hurlers in line for the Cy Young: Ian Kennedy, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The problem is that Kershaw plays for the Dodgers, which shouldn’t make the least bit of difference when it comes to the Cy Young voting — except that it will.
Even so, Kershaw should now be considered a front runner: while he doesn’t have the profile of Halladay, he leads the N.L. in strikeouts (ahead of Lincecum, Halladay, Lee and Kennedy — and in that order), and the fact that he plays for the L.A. Bankrupts could actually be in his favor. He’s pulled off a great season despite the team around him, and he leads the Nationals League in innings, ERA and strikeouts per nine.
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Following his shutout performance against the Nationals on Tuesday, it’s easy to understand why Arizona righty Ian Kennedy (16-4, with a sparkling 3.09 ERA), is being mentioned so prominently as a candidate for the N.L. Cy Young Award. Kennedy threw seven innings of six hit ball while striking out eight, to lead the Diamondbacks in a 2-0 skunking of the Nationals. While facing a revived Washington line-up known for stunning last minute wins, Kennedy was never really in danger — and added a single and a double of his own to the victory.
While the D-Backs win was hardly seizmic, the Snakes are suffering through the aftershocks of a six game losing streak — and we can hardly fault them for being concerned about losing their fragile lead in the N.L. West to the San Francisco Giants. Kennedy’s performance outshone that of Nationals’ lefty Jordan Zimmermann, who was nearly as good — giving up a home run to Sean Burroughs (with a man on) that proved the difference.
Zimmermann — who must be accounted as the Nationals most effective pitcher this season — lasted into the seventh, but could not complete the inning, taking his eleventh loss against eight wins. It is likely that Washington fans have seen the last of Zimmermann for the year, as he will probably be making only one more start for the season, and that one will probably come on the road.
For a time on Tuesday, it appeared that the Nationals and D-Backs would pick up where they left off in Arizona, the last time the two teams met, back in early June. That knock-down contest came close to sparking a donnybrook, and the same thing nearly happened on Tuesday — when Justin Upton (knocked down in Arizona) was hit by Zimmermann in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of that frame, Ian Kennedy seemed to retaliate, hitting Morse. Both benches were warned.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Speaking of earthquakes, the ground is opening up under the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis fans rarely boo their hometown boys, but they did last night when the Redbirds gave up two runs to the Trolleys in the top of the ninth, losing 2-1. The catcalls came down as the Cardinals then went quietly in their half of the inning . . .
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Jayson Werth’s three run home run — and the pitching of lefty Ross Detwiler — led the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 victory over the reeling Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on Monday night. The Werth home run (he was 2-4 in the victory) provided the difference in the game, with the slumping free agent finally hitting the ball with authority. It was the sixth loss in a row for the Diamondbacks in their quest to win the N.L. West. They now lead the Giants in the West by a single game.
Detwiler, who is now in the mix for a starting spot in 2012, turned in an impressive performance, giving up six hits and one earned run in 6.2 innings of work. Detwiler’s outing provided further evidence that the former sixth overall draft pick has finally arrived in the majors: “He threw a good game,” Snakes’ manager Kirk Gibson said after his team’s loss. “He came after us, but we couldn’t put anything together. He didn’t give us any free chances.”
Werth’s at-bats, meanwhile, have finally begun to provide evidence that he’s emerging from his season long slump. “Probably the last week to 10 days, I’ve really locked it in,” he said after the game. “It was a struggle, really. It has been a long time coming. I knew where it was. I just didn’t know how to get there. Finally, I feel I’m getting there.”
The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: It was an irritable crowd that greeted the Diamondbacks on Monday, the residue (a section mate offered) of the Phillies’ visit over the weekend. “I feel almost at home now that those guys are gone.” The only real negatives of the night were reserved for the Phillies — and for the Nationals’ ownership. When a fan was escorted out of the ballpark for throwing Henry Blanco’s home run back on the field, the section stood and booed. “These guys don’t get it,” a regular noted. “We’re trying to get people in here, not kick ‘em out.”
But most of the negative comments on Monday were reserved for the D-Backs, who seemed anything but the leaders of the West. “These guys look like they’re asleep,” a section regular noted. “I’ve never seen a team so down.” Another Nats regular was even more outspoken. “Who are these guys,” he said. “I mean really — Cody Ransom? Collin Cowgill? These are the guys who are taking on the Giants? Give me a break.” Later, when Ryan Roberts came to the plate, one of the regulars laughed. “It’s like watching the Illustrated Man,” he said. “I know he’s good, but geez. That ink is moving.”
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
It’s quite possible that finally — five months into the 2011 baseball season — the Nationals have finally found their leadoff hitter. Batting in the first slot in the line-up last night, centerfield veteran Rick Ankiel blasted two home runs in leading the Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park. Ankiel’s homers allowed Livan Hernandez (six innings, six hits and three strikeouts) to walk away with his sixth win of the season.
Ankiel’s homers were only his fourth and fifth of the year and came in the first and the fifth inning — both off of usually reliable Braves’ starter Jair Jurrjens, who registered his fourth loss. Ankiel, who has been in and out of the line-up all year (and has struggled at the plate) seems finally to be swinging with authority. “You just look for a pitch to drive. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you make it happen, sometimes you don’t,” Ankiel said after the victory. “Lately, I’ve been making good contact and good things are happening.”
It’s too soon to tell whether Ankiel’s Monday night performance means that he will be an every game feature at the leadoff position, but Nats’ skipper Davey Johnson liked what he saw: “Now he [Ankiel] is [playing] and he has cut down on his strikeouts, his swings are better,” Johnson said. “That comes with playing. In the last couple of years, I don’t think he has played much.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: If either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati are to have a chance in the N.L. Central, they’re going to have to beat the teams behind them. Last night they didn’t. Newest Ahoy Derrek Lee celebrated his arrival in Pittsburgh with two home runs, but the Pirates couldn’t beat the no-account Cubs, suffering their fourth loss in a row by a 5-3 score. Catch ‘em while you can; they’re fading, and fast . . .
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
The Nationals had only five hits in their hang-on-by-your-fingernails win in Atlanta last night — but they proved just enough to defeat the Braves 7-6. The victory, ensured by two 3-run home runs by Laynce Nix and Jayson Werth, gave Jason Marquis (7.1, eight hits and three earned) his 100th major league win. The Nats were happy with the victory, but had to be dissatisfied with the way the Bravos fought their way back into the game in the eighth inning, having been down 7-1. “It was a little scary there,” manager Jim Riggleman said after the come-from-behind “almost.”
Marquis, who is now 4-1, pitched well — but a combination of solid Braves’ hitting and poor relief pitching made the game close. Sean Burnett, who has struggled against righties, came into the game in relief of Marquis in the eighth, but gave up a single to Chipper Jones and a walk to Brian McCann. Tyler Clippard then gave up a three run home run to Atlanta second sacker Dan Uggla. The Nats were pleased they were able to squeak out the win, particularly against Braves’ ace Tim Hudson: “It makes me pretty sick to my stomach that we score six runs and we don’t win,” Hudson said following the loss. “I really felt we should have won the game . . . I feel like I should have done a better job out there.”
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Tuesday night’s baseball schedule ended in San Francisco, with a beautifully pitched and played contest that featured Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum facing off against Arizona’s Ian Kennedy. People are likely to tune into that kind of thing because of Lincecum, but Ian Kennedy was the bigger story — Kennedy notched one more walk and one less strikeout than the two time Cy Young winner, but was arguably the better pitcher. The two were locked up in a classic pitcher’s duel through the eighth, with Arizona giving up the deciding run in yet another San Francisco walk-off in the bottom on the ninth.
The Showboats are rebuilding (they’re 15-19 in the N.L. West and fading fast), but they have the nucleus of a good team, including a better-than-average starting staff: Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Armando Galarraga. Galarraga (5.29 ERA) is the weak link, despite his nearly perfect game last year. The 26-year-old Kennedy, who was drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 2006, is turning into a top of the rotation stopper.
But the real gem in the rotation might well be Daniel Hudson, the guy the Nationals just missed. Hudson was the talk of Washington back in July, when the White Sox considered offering him up to the Nationals for Adam Dunn. Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo wanted Hudson, but was under pressure to keep fan favorite Dunn. Hudson ended up going to Arizona for Edwin Jackson (another arm that Rizzo was eying) — and the White Sox may well regret it.
While Hudson has had a rough start to 2010, he’s shown flashes of brilliance: last Saturday, Hudson shut down the Friars, throwing seven complete while giving up five hits, and striking out six. As we were one of those blogs organizing the parade for Dunn last year, we won’t say what we should — or, well, yeah . . . we will. Dammit Mike, you shoulda pulled the trigger.