2018 Royals Season Preview – Ian Kennedy

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 23: Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 23: Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy /

Ian Kennedy’s career record is almost exactly .500, sitting at 91-92. 24 of those losses have come in his two seasons with the Royals. Just 16 of his wins have been with KC. Considering his last winning season came in 2012, it’s safe to say Kennedy’s best days are behind him. After a quite disappointing 2017 season, can the 33-year-old righty return to being average in 2018?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Jason Hammel, I highly recommend it! Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. This preview puts us 3/5 of the way through the (likely) 2018 starting rotation. A common theme I’ve discovered while doing these previews has been analyzing a player who is either coming off injury or a bad 2017 season. Ian Kennedy fits the latter description to a tee.

Ahead of the 2016 season, Ian Kennedy signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Royals. Many saw this as an overpay and if you look at his first-year numbers, it doesn’t make gathering a conclusion very easy. Kennedy went 11-11 with a 3.68 ERA in 195.2 innings of work in 2016. It wasn’t the year some expected, but it was solid nonetheless. The Royals have craved consistency and durability from their starting pitchers for years, and Ian Kennedy checked both of those boxes in 2016. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring any of those traits with him into 2017.

What did he offer last season?

If you read my preview for Jason Hammel and thought “wow, this guy was bad last year…” then you’re in for a treat with this one. In 30 starts with the Royals in 2017, Ian Kennedy pitched 154 innings and posted an ERA of 5.38, an increase of .09 over that of Hammel. Kennedy also allowed a career-high 34 home runs. His K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) fell from 8.46 in 2016 to 7.66 in 2017. Despite his poor play, there was still an opt-out clause built in his contract for the winter following his second season in Kansas City. Here‘s what Kennedy had to say about that right before the final month of the season:

"“But right now, it doesn’t look too good. You don’t go to the free-agent market pitching how I’ve been. No one is going to want that.”"

Solid observation. Struggling with injuries and issues with his mechanics throughout the entire season, Kennedy was never able to establish himself and put together many good stretches at any point. Can we attribute this to bad luck and injury? Let’s find out.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer projects Kennedy will be a bit better in 2018, but not by much:

  • 29 starts
  • 167 innings pitched (5.76 innings per start)
  • 8-12 record
  • 5.13 ERA
  • 7.79 K/9

Much like the projections for Jason Hammel, I think these are accurate for the most part. I’m going to take the even on 29 starts and slightly over 167 innings pitched. I believe Kennedy will win one or two more than eight games and will lose exactly 12 games. The 7.79 K/9 seems accurate as well, as it’s projected to improve just a tad bit compared to last season. I would say I saved the best figure for last, but I’d be lying. I’m not a believer in Kennedy ever getting his ERA back down below 4.00, but I’m confident he can get it below 5.13 in 2018. In summary, Kennedy will be a little bit better than he was in 2017, but not by very much.

The verdict 

Like many other players on the likely 25-man roster, 2017 was not a good (or even acceptable) year for Ian Kennedy. What was anticipated to be a steady season turned out to be a disastrous one for the soon-to-be aging pitcher. Royals fans hoping for a resurgence in 2018 may be disappointed with what they see. I like Ian Kennedy and his 2016 season was very solid, but 2017 was very rough. I hope I’m wrong and the injury/mechanics excuse does turn out to be what went wrong last season. Better days are ahead – tomorrow’s preview will be a positive one! I promise. Danny Duffy/Jakob Junis should provide a lot more optimism for 2018 than who I’ve been analyzing lately.

What do you think, Royals fans? Can Ian Kennedy bounce back in 2018? Are we going to get a better version of him? Is he on the decline already? Will he regress? Let us know what you have to say!