Monday, October 10, 2011

Ian Patrick Success

DV technically started his "wind down" posts to this site two weeks ago when the Sox season ended, but really all of his posts since then and for the foreseeable future have been and will be about the end to the Red Sox season. As they should be, the biggest September collapse in baseball history is a big topic, and this particular story has a lot of moving pieces that only seems to get more complicated as more is learned. What I'm going to kick off here are actual wind down posts. Topics that have been prevalent on this site over the last nearly 5 years that deserve to be revisited one final time.

When this site started Ian Patrick Kennedy had not yet pitched a full season of professional baseball. Drafted by the Yankees in the First Round the year before in 2006, he became more widely known during this site's first year in 2007. Largely overshadowed by Phil Hughes and then Joba Chamberlain, he blew through three levels of the minor leagues in roughly 5 months before debuting for the Yankees on September 1, 2007. He made 3 starts that year, pitching 19 innings and living up to the billing early with a 1.89 ERA. Had he not injured his back, he likely would have made the 2007 playoff roster.

That injury was a little bit of foreshadowing, as injuries, ineffectiveness, and a much discussed attitude that was out of touch with reality contributed to the rest of his Yankees career being downhill from that 2007 September. He made 11 appearances (9 starts) over 40.2 innings the next two seasons - all but one of which came in 2008 as he lost most of 2009 to a serious health issue - pitching to a 7.97 ERA.

Since that lone inning in relief on September 23, 2009, it has been all positive for Kennedy. He went to the Diamondbacks as part of the Curtis Granderson trade, and followed a rock solid season (9-10, 3.80 ERA) in his first full-season as a starter with a totally bananas breakout campaign this year (21-4, 2.88 ERA) that will likely net him a Top 5 Cy Young finish. At 26 years old (which DV might tell you is younger than Ellsbury), things are certainly looking very much up for Kennedy, despite the winding road the last 5 years to get there, a winding road that most people experience.

It's just that with the Yankees, that winding road is always magnified and the leash is short. Not that the Yankees wouldn't have been patient with Kennedy the way they have been with say, Hughes, just that they were willing to deal him in the right deal. Getting the best center fielder in the American League is certainly the right deal. No doubt, Kennedy's time with the Yankees was rocky. But it seems a lot rockier than it was because of his ill-advised comments after that one bad start in Anaheim. In terms of on-field opportunity, Kennedy made 3 starts in 2007 and 9 in 2008. He didn't earn more than that with his performance or attitude, and injuries held him back as well. But that's not much of a chance.

He's gotten a chance in Arizona, and has done nothing but perform. He's made 32 and 33 starts in his last two seasons - which are also his first two full seasons - and he's gone a combined 30-14 with a 3.31 ERA in 416 innings at age 25 and 26. Now, the analysis of least resistance is "National League" pitcher. But as we know, most every pitcher gets a bump in the NL and takes a hit in the AL. We have a lot of years worth of data of pitchers changing leagues, and the average is about 1 run on the ERA in either direction. It's not like Kennedy is on the fringes here. He won 21 games, had a 2.88 ERA, and became the ace of a staff on a team that wasn't expected to do much this year and won their division. There is plenty of room for him to regress in an American League environment and be an extremely valuable pitcher based on how he pitched this year. He was lights out.

I still don't condone his attitude or his self-analysis in 2008. But I also understand that was over 3 years ago and he was a 23 year old kid that didn't say the right thing at the right time. He messed up. I'm not going to try to phsycho-analyze him at the time because I don't know enough to do so. But if I had to guess you have a kid who wasn't used to failure - College Pitcher of the Year as a sophomore at USC, First-Round Draft Pick, Minor League Pitcher of the Year his first full year in the minors were his three years prior to the 2008 comments...imagine that - all of a sudden having to deal with failure. He probably wasn't quite sure how to deal, and was trying to make it seem better than it was because he was worried about losing his spot. We often forget that this is these players careers. We're ready enough to just dismiss players who don't perform back to the minors, but they understandably aren't willing to let go so easily. He didn't get it all yet. Certainly not the first 23 year old, in all sorts of different contexts, who didn't get it.

Now all indications are he gets it. And he's certainly not experiencing failure anymore. He became the posterboy on this site for a lack of accountability, denial about performance, and being out of touch with reality. So much so that the utilization of "Ian Patrick" became a monicker for those traits on this site. But he seems to have turned all of those things around, and I couldn't be happier for him. When you make a mistake, or you're struggling, or you get off to a tough start, the only thing you can do is turn it around. Not by talking about it, not by pretending it's turned around when it's really not, but through performance. That's all Kennedy has done the last two seasons. That's what you want to see from a player. That's motivation, pride, and accountability in and for your performance. Kennedy has become what you hope all young players who come highly touted and struggle early will turn into. A success. Which is everything we thought he would be when he flashed that promise at the beginning of his career. Good for him.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

I watch a lot of baseball and I watch more than my share of Baseball Tonight. It wasn't until the playoffs started that I knew Ian Kennedy went 21-4 this season. Shows you how little the National League factors into my AL East-centric world.

It's worth noting that Yankee fans would be absolutely howling about how much of a bum Kennedy was in New York if that trade hadn't worked out so well for everyone.

Also (and I'm not just saying this to rile DV up) Jacoby Ellsbury was the best CF in the AL this year. His OPS, OPS+, batting average, and OBP were all higher than Granderson's (they tied at slugging percentage). Ellsbury also had 20 more doubles, 59 more hits and 14 more stolen bases. And he led the league in total bases. In the two years since Granderson has been in New York he has been more productive than Ellsbury, especially in light of Jacoby's lost 2010 season. But Ellsbury was better in 2011.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Gunn -

The primary reason Ellsbury's numbers approached Granderson's were because of his batting average. Which is great, but as we know batting average isn't the driving force it used to be. When you strip batting average from OBP, SLG (in particular), and OPS, Granderson hit for more pure power (.290 ISO to .230 ISO) and had a higher walk rate (12.3% to 7.1%). Ellsbury's OPS+, OPS, SLG, and OBP are where they are in large part due to his batting average. Granderson's are where they are due to power. In this day and age we know which guy to take. You sacrifice some batting average for power in a player, not vice versa.

Granderson also lead the AL in RBI (14 more than Ellsbury), runs (17 more), and was 2nd in homers (hitting 33% more of those than Ellsbury; 41 from center field!). Since you mentioned doubles, for good measure Granderson doubled him up in triples. The only thing Ellsbury finished first or second in the AL was...caught stealing. Granderson was first or second in the 3 biggest counting categories.

Ellsbury had a great season. One of the five best in the AL. He certainly had a more balanced season across the board. But in terms of pure, Alpha Dog, I'm going to drive wins not just acccumulate a pretty stat line production, Granderson had the better year. The only player who was better than him in the AL was Jose Bautista. That's taking nothing away from Ellsbury, as all these guys had great years.

- PF

the gm at work said...

The only thing Ellsbury finished first or second in the AL was...caught stealing.

AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE! 46 was an AVERAGE base stealer in the American League this year in terms of percentages - he just tried more than anyone else.

A serious comment with some substances is coming later. The Kennedy stuff is really good and ought to be addressed/refuted properly.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, he lead the league in total bases. I had to refer to your post for that because it's not on ESPN or Fangraphs first page of statistical leaderboards. The only time I've ever heard total bases invoked in a conversation is for Pedroia's 2008 campaign and now Ellsbury's 2011. Not that there's anything wrong with it, it just doesn't tell us much about their skillset and production that year. ISO and BB% tell us, for example, exactly how much more power or plate discipline a guy had. One guy touching 20 more bases than another just means he touched more bases. Guy behind him walked more moving him to 2nd? Went 1st to 3rd more? Stole a few extra? None of this is bad stuff, it's all good. And it gives us a general idea of how much time a guy spent on base. But beyond that it's fairly limited in its informational capacity in terms of value add, especially from a comparative perspective. This has less to do with Ellsbury, and more to do with a general rant on total bases. End rant.

- PF

Anonymous said...

PF

I guess we have to agree to disagree. Ellsbury's WAR, according fangraphs, was the highest for position players in baseball. Both leagues. Granderson was 7th. Also, is it somehow good for Granderson that he hit .264 this year while Ellsbury hit .321? As far as power is concerned they each slugged .552. This isn't fuzzy math. These are just facts. So outside of triples, homers, and RBI, Ellsbury was higher in every statistical category including, again: OPS, OPS+, OBP, BA, hits, doubles, SB, total bases, and WAR. Granderson had an excellent year. Ellsbury was just better.

Also, I love that Pedroia winning the MVP in 2008 still bothers you. Whenever that comes up just think about how George King cheated Pedro Martinez out of the 1999 MVP by leaving him off the ballot when he'd voted for David Wells the year before.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Pat,

There's gotta be something that cancels that out when you're talking about running into outs. Like if you're running into an out at third base with two outs late in a close game with a .300 hitter up. That's okay, at least he tried to get his 40 and pump up his fantasy stats. Piece of trash.

On to Kennedy: It's been an interesting road for the player thus far, and I'm glad you mentioned how old he is: He's one year, three months, and eight days younger than upside upside young potential future Hall of Famer 46.

You told me while we were bickering over text messages on Friday about this player that the lack of accountability stuff was several years ago and I should move on. You know well enough that I never move on. You have one chance with me, and that guy iced his legacy pretty quickly. I had not yet realized that the entire Red Sox organization, top to bottom, FRONT AND BACK, was going to surpass him in denying how much they suck and/or whether it was their fault. This guy set a standard, and I'm glad to see that this standard was followed throughout our time on the Internet. I last mentioned "Suck Patrick Denial" on September 21, 2011.

But let's be honest and go back to the kind of garbage this guy initially said to make himself such a lightning rod on this site and around Yankees Universe. Not only, upon being lit up multiple times, did he say that he pitched well, but he had the audacity to say after getting shelled in July, being sent to the minors, being called back up, and getting blown up again that his start was his first bad one since July. It was the first time you faced major leaguers, bro.

I can make a joke about the National League West here as well. Yup.

And it's not like this guy has gotten any less audacious. Last week, he apparently refused to walk Matthew Lucroy to get to Yovanni Gallardo (the pitcher), just to give up an RBI single to Lucroy. He said to a newspaper, re-quoted by Sports Illustrated this week, that Lucroy was "a guy who can't really hit."

He apparently thought Prince Fielder was a guy who can't really hit either, as he refused to walk Fielder in an opportune time as well, just to give up a bomb.

Really, what I'm trying to say here is that Kennedy was an arrogant punk when he was 23 and is still an arrogant punk when he's 26. If he's on my team (as long as he's not giving up 525s to Fielder in the playoffs), that's fine. If he's not, I have full license to continue hating.

Your non-analytical, factual evidence that this guy has actually learned how to be a good pitcher in realms outside of his own mind (as I have been texting you, in his own mind he probably pitched seven no-hitters and went 33-1 with a 0.74 ERA this season), is impressive, and I'll echo the "good for him." But you say that he had a winding road that "most players do?" Let's get serious here. I'll admit that lots of guys, like Jeremy Bonderman, Clay Buchholz, and even Phil Hughes went through similar growing pains. But most players have a better grip of reality the whole way through, and if they didn't, they at least kept their mouths shut about it.

Anonymous said...

Gunn -

It does not help Granderson that Ellsbury had a higher batting average than him, obviously. I was merely pointing out that SLG, while typically associated with power, includes batting average. You get rewarded for singles (as you should), it just doesnt tell us anything about power. What ISO does is take power a step further by subtracting AVG from SLG. This takes the singles out to give us a true indication of power. So while you are correct that they had the same SLG, that doesn't give us the truest indication of the power they provided. ISO does, and Granderson bested Ellsbury. Significantly. Which makes sense. Ellsbury had more doubles, the least of the power department; Granderson had more triples and homers, increasingly the most of the power department. The only player with a higher ISO, and thus more power, than Granderson in 2011 was Bautista. Ellsbury wasn't in the Top 20.

The same process takes place with OPS and OPS+. Ellsbury got to his, largely, through better batting average. Granderson got to his, largely through better power. At that point, when it's close, it comes down to which you prefer. I'll take the power guy.

No doubt, Ellsbury had the more balanced statisitcal season. But you can't give up 9 homers, 14 RBI, and 17 runs. Ellsbury would need to play for an extra month to rack up those numbers. Can't take a guy who needs 7 months to do what another can do in 6. There isn't enough separation in their rate stats to make up for that kind of counting stat gap. I know some fluffy sabermetrician might tell me otherwise, but the days of sabermetrics as a rule and not a guide ended her long ago. Homers and RBI win baseball games, and Granderson's substantial superiority in those departments as the best position players on their respective teams in 2011 is at least part of the reason why the Yankees won the most games in the American League and the Sox had one of the most dissapointing regular seasons in baseball history. Can't blame it on Ellsbury (or even close, obviously), but he wasn't able to quite do what Granderson did to avoid such a scenario.

Pedroia in 2008 doesn't bug me at all. I was just factually pointing out that's the only other time I've ever heard total bases mentioned. When total bases has to be mentioned, the argument is probabaly already lost.

-PF

Anonymous said...

And the only reason I mention Ellsbury in the collapse is, if you want to be the kind of player Red Sox fans are now talking about Ellsbury as, you need to be ready to accept blame for the whole team not getting it done. I've been told, in my defense of Lebron James and similar superstars, that it's not only stats that matter. It's a particular wiring and refusal to lose. People want to apply it to baseball players to. Great, here we are. Granderson gets a huge uptick for being the best guy on the team that won the most games in the AL, getting the job done. Ellsbury loses points, no matter how well he played, for not playing well enough to get the job done. If Lebron James or Alex Rodriguez were in the same spot, that's what we'd hear. Ellsbury is no exception.

- PF

Anonymous said...

GM -

I'm glad you mentioned the attitude. Because your absolutely right. Kennedy is brash. That annoys us on other teams. But just last week or two weeks ago we were all talking about how we'd like more personalities like that on our teams. It's important toremember that. Its also important to remember that these guys can't necessarily just shut that personality trait off. So it sometimes manifests itself in dumb comments to the media. As long as it comes from a place of unwavering confidence and not lack of touch with reality (there is a BIG difference) it's okay. For Kennedy it used to seem like the latter, now it clearly sees the former. I get the sense the Sox struggled with the latter.

When I say winding road, I meant that most prospects have trials and tribulations before figuirng it out performance wise, which they do. Kennedy was no different. In his case, for a multitude of reasons, he only got 12 start with the Yankees to figure it out. That's not a lot of time, which adds to the trials and tribulations. Everyone has their own (Kennedy also had injuries and the lack of touch with reality), but my point was just that many have them, whatever they may be.

- PF

Anonymous said...

PF

I'm intrigued by the fact that you didn't address the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury led the majors in WAR this year. That would seem to be a relevant point.

Also, as far as total bases is concerned it's a pretty telling stat. Here are your leaders in total bases for the past 10 years in the AL: Alex Rodriguez (twice), Mark Teixeira (twice), Vernon Wells (his career-making 2003), Vladimir Guerrero (his MVP year), David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton (they tied), Jose Bautista, and Jacoby Ellsbury. With the exception of Cabrera in 2008, every player finished in the top-10 in MVP voting, two of them won, and three of them finished second. Also, collectively that's a list of fairly significant hitters--there five MVP awards in that group.

As for regular season collapse, no question that a great player puts his team on their back in these situations and wins at least a game or two that make the difference. Two things though--make sure we realize there is a huge difference between the NBA and MLB--Lebron James is one of five guys. Jacoby Ellsbury is one of 10. Baseball players don't have the same impact on the game as basketball players do because they can't. Also, the Yankees won as many playoff series this year as the Sox did, so it's not like you can go out and hail Granderson as Mr. Clutch.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Gunn -

When I talked about Ellsbury having the more balanced statistical season across the board, and that a sabermetrician might tell me a higher global rate stat trumps a guy with an also elite global rate stat and superior counting stats, I was referring to WAR. I meant to mention it and didn't, sorry about that.

At some point we are nickel and diming. We are talking about two of the 5 best seasons in the AL here. So I certainly acknowledge Ellsbury's elite WAR figure. I love global stats. But global stats are a combination of a lot of things. So when two seasons are close (as here) you have to boil them down. And when you do, Ellsbury did one thing a lot better than Granderson. He got more hits. A lot more. And that's a good thing. But Granderson hit for more power, walked more, had better plate discipline (nobody in the majors saw more pitches per PA), drove in more runs, scored more runs, and hit more balls where nobody on the field can catch them. I value those things over getting (again a lot) more singles, even if Ellsbury was better at Granderson at getting singles more than Granderson was beter at hitting for power than Ellsbury, resulting in the higher WAR.

Listen I completely understand that total bases gives us a general idea of performance, as I mentioned in my first comment about it. A guy who finishes first in total bases had a great season, going to finish top 10 in mvp. But my points were two-fold. One, that's not telling anything we don't already know. Its one step shy of following up saying a guy scored a lot of runs with he also reached 3rd base a lot. Two, and more importantly, it really does just give us a general idea when talking about comparing players, as here. Ellsbury having more singles than Granderson, or Granderson having a higher ISO, tell us something specific about their performance. Ellsbury was 1, Granderson was T-7, in total bases. What do those 40 extra bags mean? It's one extra base touched every 4th game. When you consider the various ways a guy can advance a base, it tells us almost nothing. I've taken us way off track with this, but this stat gets us next to nowhere in comparing seasons. I'm fine agreeing to lose this argument so long as it's agreed total bases has nothing to do with it.

Baseball and basketball are indeed different sports. Unfortunately, that point has been lost when Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira has beem criticized as if they weren't. I'm just trying to make sure everybody gets held to the same standards, and that the targets aren't moving depending on the player involved.

Granderson certainly may not be Mr. Clutch, but at playoffs games played over the last two years a two touchdown 14-0, he's certainly doing a lot more than Ellsbury (and Pedroia, Youkilis, Beckett, and Papelbon)! May not be a high bar to clear, but at least he's clearing it.

Enjoyed thiebate immensely, thanks for engaging.

- PF

Anonymous said...

And by the way, I did not mean to say I enjoyed the debate as in it's over, I got the final word. I meant I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would love to hear any final thoughts from you.

the gm at work said...

Pat and Gunn,

Speaking of being out of touch with reality, regarding the improptu debate about Granderson versus 46 as to who had a better season, I'll agree with Gunn and his binder-formulating tendencies on this one. 46, in addition to having a vested interest in padding his fantasy stats (three key caught-stealings in September, and 4 CS alongside 3 SB in September), was not part of the problem in September. He continued to play hard. Unless you're a cynic and know how important 40 stolen bases would be to formulating a free-agent binder, you might call his unsuccessful attempts to steal bases attempts to help the team. But in September he hit .358 with eight home runs. You can't blame him for being part of the group that told Ken Rosenthal but not the local media about his sore shoulder and mailing it in while calling it God's will. 46 is off the hook for that. If 46 just stopped showing up in September, you could make the Lebron comparisons. You can do that with Gonzalez, but not 46.

However...

Granderson, to my knowledge, did not get caught stealing third base to end an inning in a two-run game against your main wild card rival, when losing the game resulted in the wild card lead narrowing itself to three games. This was not during an at-bat when a guy hitting .300 was up with two outs and you're the fastest guy in the freaking American League. 46's CS at third on September 17th was the defining moment of the season for the Red Sox. It was based on absolutely no team-oriented logic, and that's dreadfully obvious.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Totally missed the debate today.

Here's the part I liked the most:

" know some fluffy sabermetrician might tell me otherwise, but the days of sabermetrics as a rule and not a guide ended her long ago. Homers and RBI win baseball games."


Tremendous. I was saying these types of things to Pat years ago. I of course was treated as someone that was uneducated and out of touch with the finer points of baseball statistics.

Really the only bad thing about those comments is that it significantly detracts from the accomplishments of the great Derek Jeter. Because his ISO was terrible this year, and has never been very good. Alex Gonzalez's career ISO is better than Jeter's. I'm glad people came up with this stat, because it pretty much is the poster stat for the why Derek Jeter is overrated discussion.

Anyways, to address the debate: I have always been a fan of power, so it's hard for me to turn down Granderson's numbers in favor of Jacoby Ellsbury's. I don't care about people's averages nearly as much as their HR and RBI production. Also, quoting OBP OPS, OPS+ is a bit repetitive since they are all really driven by the same things. It's not like they are vastly different categories like average and RBI.

At the same time, I would say that Ellsbury is the most complete offensive player on the whole. Ellsbury's power numbers were still pretty good, and the huge advantage in the rate metrics speaks to a greater overall consistency.

So I guess you take your pick- do you want power or someone that can do it all? I would personally take power, but Ellsbury's all around consistency should not be totally discounted.

Bandi

The GM said...

Bandi,

I believe that day was September 30, 2009. "I thought you were going to ask me about JD Drew having the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders."

I love you chiming in as the only person that didn't change because he didn't have to change. Apollo Creed would be proud of you.