Kendrick and the “Hafta’ Counts”

Last year, Kyle Kendrick finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, following a successul 3/5 season with the Phillies. His performance supremely aided a depleted starting rotation and he was expected to be a key cog in their plans this year. Due to his low strikeout count and high home run total, Kendrick’s 3.87 ERA translated to a 4.90 FIP. All of the projection systems pegged him to experience a severe regression in 2008 and, after his first two starts, said systems hit the nail on the head. After his first two starts, Kendrick had lasted only 7.1 IP, surrendering 12 hits and eight walks while striking out just one batter. With an ERA of 6.14, a WHIP hovering near the 3.00 mark, and a ghastly K:BB of 0.13, Kendrick seemed primed for a sophomore slump.

Prior to last night’s game against the Astros, manager Charlie Manuel told broadcaster Chris Wheeler that Kendrick had to stay out of “hafta’ counts” to be successful. Inquiring what that meant, Manuel told Wheeler that Kendrick had to avoid counts wherein he would “hafta'” throw a strike. Manuel continued to say that, because Kendrick’s stuff is not overpowering, he needed to get ahead of batters; when he got himself into counts of 2-0, 3-1, or 3-0 batters could wait and rake. Coming into this start, here are Kendrick’s numbers against in these counts:

  • After 2-0: 7 PA, 1-4, 2B, 2 BB, K, SF
  • After 3-1: 8 PA, 0-3, 4 BB, SF
  • After 3-0: 2 PA, 0-1, BB, K

And here are his numbers when throwing a first pitch strike: 22 PA, 5-18, 3 2B, 4 BB, 4 K.

From these numbers it appears that batters did not necessarily feast on Kendrick in these counts; however, he gave up two sacrifice flies and walked seven batters, which greatly contributed to his 11 surrendered runs on the season (5 earned). Of the 44 batters he faced first pitch strikes were thrown to just 22 of them, 50 percent.

From watching the starts it was evident Kendrick either got behind batters and struggled to recover or got ahead of hitters and proceeded to nibble until he lost them. Manuel told Kendrick to attack the batters and, last night at least, he surely did. Here is last night’s breakdown of his performance:

  • After 2-0: 1 PA, L-9
  • After 3-1: 1 PA, K
  • After 3-0: Never had a 3-0 count
  • After 0-1: 17 PA, 3-17, HR, 4 K

Kendrick really changed his approach, throwing a first pitch strike to 17 batters; as mentioned before he had done this just 18 times in his prior two starts. He only found himself in “hafta’ counts” twice and neither effected him. The game graph is below and his end line looked like: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.

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He threw 68 strikes out of 96 pitches, a much higher strike percentage than his previous two starts–91 strikes and 74 balls in 165 pitches prior to last night. Ironically, he lost the game as Roy Oswalt finally regained his form. If the Phillies seriously want to contend, Kendrick will need to build on this rather than let it be a positive outlier in a mostly negative season.





Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Tom Au
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Tom Au

Looks like the Astros manager is onto something.

I’ve been doing a study of how pitch counts change BAAs for different pitchers. In Kendrick’s case, the numbers work out as follows:

Pitch Count BAA
0-0 .288 (This is low for an 0-0 pitch count; often BBAs > .300)

1-0 .314
2-0 .383
2-1 .317

These rises are high; many pitchers’ BAA rise at about half these rates over the 0-0 pitch count BAA when the ball count gets high.

0-1 .251
0-2 .250
1-2 .234
2-2 .230

These declines are low; many pitchers’ BAA fall into the .100s when the strike count gets high. Put another way, a batter isn’t that much worse off batting against Kendrick at 1-2 or 2-2 than at 0-0. His BAA is unusually sensitive to balls, and unusually insensitive to strikes.