Kyle Kendrick Has Had Some First-Inning Issues

Jayson Werth‘s three-run home run in the first inning off of Kyle Kendrick in Sunday’s first-half finale was about the most predictable thing that could have happened. Kendrick entered the game having allowed 21 earned runs in 18 first innings. At the end of the first ion Sunday, his opening frame ERA was an ugly 11.37. Kendrick blanked the Nationals over the next four innings, then allowed one more run in the sixth before leaving with two outs. Mario Hollands later allowed one of Kendrick’s inherited runners to score, giving Kendrick a line of five earned runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings.

In the first inning this year, hitters have posted a .460 weighted on-base average against Kendrick. In all other innings, they’re hitting .288. To give you an idea of the difference, the MLB leader in wOBA so far is Troy Tulowitzki at .448; Gerardo Parra, Alejandro De Aza, and Allen Craig can be found at .289. It’s night and day.

Why does Kendrick struggle so much in the first inning? Looking at his peripherals in the first inning compared to the rest of the game, there isn’t much of a difference. There’s only a small percentage difference — enough to be explained by simple statistical variation — in pitch locations and his ability to miss bats, generally speaking. His velocity hasn’t been noticeably lower, and his pitch mix is roughly the same. He induces ground balls at nearly the same exact rate in both splits as well, and faces left- and right-handed hitters at nearly the same ratios.

Location Up Mid Down In Mid Away
1st Inning 19.4% 35.3% 45.3% 33.1% 23.4% 43.4%
Other Innings 22.5% 33.5% 44.1% 29.9% 23.6% 46.5%

 

Pitch Type Sinker Cutter Change-up Slider
1st Inning 47.2% 20.5% 20.5% 7.3%
Other Innings 45.7% 25.3% 19.3% 7.1%

 

Batters Swing Miss In Play Zone Chase
1st Inning 42.3% 17.8% 47.8% 44.5% 27.7%
Other Innings 47.3% 19.1% 46.8% 48.8% 29.4%

Kendrick has a .397 BABIP in the first inning and .278 the rest of the game. His career average is .294, and it’s .302 overall for the season. Considering that Kendrick almost always faces the opposing team’s best hitters in the first inning, it would make sense that his stats would skew unfavorably in the opening frame compared to the rest of the game. National League pitchers overall have a 4.20 ERA in the first inning, the worst of any inning, just ahead of the fourth (4.17). Kendrick has also allowed seven of his 15 home runs in the first inning, following the trend of pitchers at large.

While Kendrick’s early-game struggles are fascinating and appear to be an outlier, it doesn’t seem to be anything more than a fluke. If Kendrick really did have some kind of issue starting off a ballgame, we would see a difference in the first inning compared to all other innings. It could have been that Kendrick has trouble getting a feel for his fastball early on, or he’s over the middle of the plate much more often, or that he can’t induce as many swings and misses. But there is almost no difference in his performance during and after the first inning. Considering the trend of the league, and the fact that his BABIP is so much higher, it seems like we can chalk this case up to randomness. Don’t forget, while Kendrick has made 19 starts this season, his first-inning performance constitutes a sample of only 19 innings, so a lot can happen without any real reason other than RNG.

Kyle Kendrick Has Had Some First-Inning Issues
Author: Bill Baer
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Phillies Should Consider Bringing Randy Wolf Back

Former Phillie Randy Wolf opted out of his minor league contract with the Orioles on Sunday and will be looking to join his fifth different organization this season in an attempt to prolong his playing career. Wolf made a handful of appearances for the Marlins, his first stint back in the majors since 2012, earlier in the season without much success.

Wolf is 37 years old and likely a stone’s throw away from retirement. Because he’s left-handed, he’ll likely be able to find a taker, but he won’t be able to get anything more than a minor league deal.

The Phillies should consider bringing Wolf back into the organization that drafted him in the second round of the 1997 draft. You can never have too much pitching depth. When rosters expand in September, Wolf could come up and make a token start or two back in the big leagues before he decides whether he wants to continue his career or call it quits. The Phillies won’t be playing for anything more than dignity, but they’ve already lost most of it anyway. It’d be a classy gesture to a guy who was a memorable part of an otherwise forgettable era of Phillies baseball.

Wolf has made a nice career for himself, posting a 4.21 ERA (100 ERA+) with 1,786 strikeouts and 816 walks over 2,293 2/3 innings spanning 15 seasons in the major leagues. With the Phillies, he posted a 4.21 ERA (103 ERA+) with 971 strikeouts and 437 walks over 1,175 innings across eight seasons.

Phillies Should Consider Bringing Randy Wolf Back
Author: Bill Baer
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Brewers midseason report: Happy to be in first (The SportsXchange)

The Milwaukee Brewers wrapped up in dramatic fashion, snapping a seven-game losing streak with an 11-2 thumping of the St. Louis Cardinals who, a night earlier, pulled into a tie with the Brewers atop the NL Central. With that victory, Milwaukee goes into the break with a one-game lead that will feel enormous for the next four days. When the calendar flipped to July, things were pretty good for the Brewers, who had cooled off after a blistering start but still led their division by 6 1/2 games. That lead disappeared over the next 12 games as the Brewers lost 11 times, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Brewers midseason report: Happy to be in first (The SportsXchange)
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Phillies midseason report: Slide to irrelevance continues (The SportsXchange)

The Philadelphia Phillies’ slide to irrelevance continues. They were world champions in 2008, and National League champs in ’09. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has already said they will be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and closer Jonathan Papelbon has said he will waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender. Second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Phillies their entire careers, are more reluctant to leave, and can veto any deal that is not to their liking.

Phillies midseason report: Slide to irrelevance continues (The SportsXchange)
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Phils get taste of Future in Crawford, Franco

J.P. Crawford had a hit, a steal and a run for the US team in Sunday’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Target Field. Also representing the Phillies organization was top prospect Maikel Franco, who has gotten hot at Triple-A Lehigh Valley after a slow start.

Phils get taste of Future in Crawford, Franco
Author: Paul Hagen
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Rangers' Gallo homers as U.S. wins Futures Game (The SportsXchange)

Joey Gallo, a slugging Texas Rangers prospect, hit a two-run, sixth-inning homer Sunday that was the difference as the U.S. team beat the World team 3-2 in the Futures Game in Minneapolis.

Rangers' Gallo homers as U.S. wins Futures Game (The SportsXchange)
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Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick pitches during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)…

Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3
Author: The Associated Press
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Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3

Washington Nationals’ Jayson Werth follows through after hitting a three-run home run off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick during the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)…

Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3
Author: The Associated Press
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Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3

Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon bats during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)…

Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3
Author: The Associated Press
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Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3

Philadelphia Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick pitches during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)…

Philadelphia Phillies slammed by Washington Nationals, 10-3
Author: The Associated Press
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