The changeup always catches hitters by surprise and yielded just a .143 opponent batting average in 2019. Kennedy doesn’t offer it much, but hitters have always been stymied by it — opponents have hit just .215 against it across his lengthy career.
Kennedy re-invented himself as a closer in Kansas City last season, notching 30 saves. His curve became a stikeout asset, with his spin rate sitting in the 77th percentile, and helped Kennedy post a healthy 10.37 K/9.
Kennedy’s average fastball velocity went up to a career-high 94.8 mph at age 35. Yeah, we’re scratching our heads, too. Increased velocity helped the pitch greatly, with opponent wOBA at .259 and wRC+ at 67. If he can keep it up, this pitch could sustain him in the bigs for at least the next couple years.
With a 26.4% strikeout rate and 11.4% swinging-strike rate, the breaking ball continues to stymie hitters into sky-high ground-ball numbers — a familiar theme across Kennedy’s arsenal in 2019.
Even though he cut his homers allowed on the pitch from 23 to 16, Kennedy gave up 15-plus tates for the fourth year in a row on his four-seamer. Sitting at 92 mph with unimpressive movement and swing numbers, the heater picked up a -4.7 pVal over 1,195 thrown.
Kennedy’s hook picked up two-plane break in 2018 and upped its chase rate to a respectable 35.8%. It still didn’t carry an impressive swinging-strike rate for a breaker, but it limited power (.070 ISO) and dragged it from the depths of a -9.1 pVal to a neutral 0.0. It was a shrug-inducer, but it allowed him to continue to eat innings.
The cutter/slider acted as a secondary strike-getter in support of his fastball and carried run-of-the-mill whiff and chase rates unimpressive movement no matter how you classify it. It didn’t do anything particularly well and settled at a -2.4 pVal.
Kennedy’s changeup lost significant arm-side run in 2018, but was still above-average in that department. With 40.7% zone, 37.9% chase, and 15.8% swinging-strike rates, it stood as his best pitch and quite an effective whiff-inducer.
Kennedy barely threw his two-seamer in 2018, though it maintained above-average arm-side run. There wasn’t much to go on numbers-wise, but it doesn’t look like this will be a major part of his arsenal in 2019 unless he decides he’s had enough homer-happiness with his main heater.