This is definitely the marquee matchup of this three-game set in Kansas City.
Both of Wednesday’s starting pitchers come from National League backgrounds and signed huge contracts in the offseason.
Both have responded for their respective teams with two really good starts.
Zimmermann is yet to surrender a run in his two wins, with hitters hitting just .174 off of him early on.
Kennedy has given up a run, but he has also struck out 14 batters, opposed to Zimmerman’s seven.
Over his seven-year career, Zimmermann has only faced the Royals once, going 7.2 innings and striking out seven, giving up two runs in the process.
Kennedy, on the other hand, has faced the Tigers three times, and they have not been very friendly.
He has given up 11 runs over 17.1 innings, while giving up 19 hits.
Zimmermann figures to be a pretty tough assignment for the Royals lineup. He is the essence of a pitcher the Royals struggle against: average velocity fastball, with average stuff, who makes a living deceiving hitters.
His career has really been marked by getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone. If you look at his career peripherals, nothing stands out. He doesn’t strike out a lot of people, but he also doesn’t walk people. He isn’t an extreme ground ball or fly ball pitcher, even though he leans more to the former, and he gets a decent amount of soft contact.
Why he is a terrible mismatch for the Royals is that for his career, he has always been an above-average pitcher at drawing swings and misses on pitches out of the zone.
He also does this by throwing 60-65% fastballs, despite having an underwhelming fastball.
He confuses hitters, and the Royals have historically struggled against such pitchers.
Kennedy is not all that different, except for the fact that those outs come via strikeout. He doesn’t have one really dominate pitch (with his two-seam probably being the closest), but he manages to get strikeouts.
Both pitcher see the negatives to not having that crazy stuff. For Zimmermann, it is in his inability to strike hitters out, even though we really haven’t seen this bite him yet in his career. For Kennedy, we see it in run prevention. He strikes out a ton of hitters, but also tends to get smacked around a bit.
Needless to say, it will be a fun game to watch with two pitchers with similar arm talent, pitching to completely different approaches.
Must-See Matchup – Ian Kennedy v. the Tigers
This is what we worried about when the Royals signed Kennedy.
He was giving up bomb after bomb, playing in the National League, in a pitcher’s park.
He passed his first test with flying colors by shutting down the high-powered Astros, in Houston.
But none of those guys were Miguel Cabrera.
The Royals success against the Tigers will play a huge role in their ability to win the division, so Kennedy’s ability to get Tigers outs will be crucial long-term, not just for this game.
Next: Thursday - Steady Eddie's Turn