As the old saying goes, “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best” and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy has the chance to do just that. Kennedy has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the National League and could be a dark horse to win the Cy Young award.
But standing in his way are the Philadelphia Phillies, not just tonight when Kennedy attempts to win the rubber match against the best team in Major League Baseball, but for the remainder of the season as the Phillies have three Cy Young contenders – Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
The 26-year-old Kennedy is tied with Halladay – last year’s reining Cy Young winner – for the National League lead in wins, having gone 15-3 this season with a 3.12 ERA and a WHIP of 1.11. Kennedy, along with fellow right handed pitcher Daniel Hudson have given the Diamondbacks stability in the rotation and combined for 34 quality starts. He embraced the role of ace which seemed to just fall in his lap, however Kennedy is not built from the typical staff ace mold.
He is considered small at just 6-foot, 190 pounds but that doesn’t seem to hinder him from getting the job done; thanks in part to an average velocity of 90.1 mph but the real reason for his success might just be his command and control. He relies heavily on off speed pitches to get batters out.
Kennedy’s success has come quickly, which is why he is still under the radar of many baseball fans.
It wasn’t too long ago that Kennedy was a highly touted draft pick by the New York Yankees, being selected 21st overall by the Bronx Bombers in the 2006 draft. Kennedy had a rough start with the Yankees and in 2008 he posted an 8.17 ERA. He then missed the entire 2009 season thanks to a aneurysm in his right shoulder and it was at that point the Yankees decided to send Kennedy to the Diamondbacks as part of a seven-player, three-team trade that included the Detroit Tigers, with guys like Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer all finding new homes.
"There's some good that comes from playing in New York, because the fans are so loyal there and they love their Yankees,'' Kennedy told ESPN. "But it can be tough. I got booed off the field there, and the next outing, I got a standing ovation. But I wouldn't trade it for anything because it helped me grow up and be who I am today.''
His first full season in Arizona was slightly better than mediocre, finishing one loss under .500 but posting an impressive 3.80 ERA.
This year Kennedy has impressed, especially when facing teams in his division. He is 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA against the NL West this season. Besides being tied for most wins, he also is 7th in ERA, 11th in ERA, 12th in strikeouts and 8th in WHIP. But there are still plenty of games remaining in the season, and plenty of time for Cy Young voting.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS