Ian Kennedy made history earlier this week, joining just four other players. He has been excellent as the closer for the Kansas City Royals this year.
It’s not uncommon for starters to move to the bullpen in the latter part of their careers. Many of them are guys that couldn’t stay healthy in the rotation but still want to contribute while having to throw fewer pitches. That’s been exactly the case for Ian Kennedy with the Kansas City Royals.
Kennedy, 34, made 22 starts for the Royals last season but was transitioned to the bullpen in Spring Training this year. He’s been nothing short of excellent and made history on Monday night, becoming just one of four pitchers to have 20 wins and 30 saves in different saves. Think about how many pitchers have come and gone in this league and Kennedy is part of a very small group to achieve such an accomplishment.
A huge reason for his success has been the increase in the velocity of his fastball out of the bullpen. As a starter, Kennedy averaged 91 mph on his primary pitch but has seen a jump near 95 mph. Obviously, he needs fewer pitches as a closer so he can just “grip it and rip it” for lack of better term.
"It’s more mentally draining when you stay locked in for so long, from the 5th inning on. Just being told “you’re throwing the 9th inning”, it was mentally freeing. You have to be ready just for that one inning. Just mentally knowing you can do all that stuff is pretty cool.Getting 20 wins is really cool. I wish back then I would have taken it in a little better. You think you’re going do it a lot more and I never won more than 15 after that. And it’s really difficult and I never thought I’d have this opportunity that I’ve been given. – Fox Sports Kansas City"
Kennedy is signed through the 2020 season but at an expensive $16.5 million salary. It will be interesting to see if new owner John Sherman and Royals General Manager Dayton Moore try to trade him this offseason. There were rumors that David Glass shot down a trade to unload Kennedy this season. That being said, he can be a valuable asset at the back end of the bullpen next year if he repeats this performance.
My personal preference is that the front office tries to find a trade partner this offseason for Kennedy. Granted they likely have to eat some of his salary but it’s time to gear everything towards the future under new ownership and new direction.