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Fantasy baseball Stat Focus: Despite struggles, Kennedy still valuable

Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images

Pitcher Ian Kennedy may be having the worst year of his career, but still could be worth a shot in fantasy circles.

Trade Deadline 2013 will be remembered for ... will it be remembered? There were a handful of biggish trades leading up to July 31, notably Matt Garza to the Rangers and Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, but deadline day was devoid of drama. There was one deal that caught my eye, mainly because I thought the playoff contender in question undersold an asset on which they had soured.

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The Diamondbacks sent Ian Kennedy to the Padres for reliever Joe Thatcher, Double-A reliever Matt Stites, and a compensation round B pick. Kennedy has struggled this year, and had clearly fallen out of favor in Arizona. With Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill working their way back from injuries, the Diamondbacks were about to have a surplus of starting pitchers (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). Still, not only did the Diamondbacks sell low here, I think there's a strong case to be made that Kennedy isn't pitching that much worse than he has in any season since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2010.

Kennedy is walking more batters and surrendering more homers than any other year in his career. He has issued 3.48 free passes per nine innings and allowed 18 homers on the season. Other than that, though, nearly all of his peripheral stats are right in line with his career numbers. Here are some of Kennedy's pertinent stats for his entire career versus this season.

Career:

K-rate: 20.5 percent
Ground-ball rate: 37.3 percent
Average fastball velocity: 89.8 mph
GB/FB ratio: 0.89
Line-drive rate: 20.7 percent
Swinging-strike rate: 8.9 percent
First-strike rate: 63.7 percent

2013:

K-rate: 19.7 percent
Ground-ball rate: 36.1 percent
Average fastball velocity: 90.3 mph
GB/FB ratio: 0.92
Line-drive rate: 24.7 percent
Swinging-strike rate: 9.1 percent
First-strike rate: 63.6 percent

Essentially, Kennedy is the exact same pitcher this year he has always been, he's just walking more batters and giving up more homers. But he's still getting ahead of hitters and getting them to swing and miss. His ERA is an unsightly 5.23, but his FIP is 4.59 and his xFIP is even better at 4.32. The Diamondbacks' bullpen has struggled all year, which is a large reason they made this trade, and Kennedy suffered as much as any starter on the team. His 66.5 percent strand rate is way below league average and helps to explain why his xFIP is nearly a full run less than his ERA.

Moreover, his pitch breakdown is basically the same. He's mixing his pitches and the same percentages as he has over the length of his career. The one major difference is that his fastball has been one of the least valuable heaters in baseball this season, according to Fangraphs and Pitch F/X. However, a lot of that is because 14 of the 18 homers he has surrendered this season have been on fastballs. Now that he calls Petco Park home, I'm willing to bet he'll keep a lot more balls in the park.

Kennedy is undoubtedly having the worst year of his career. He's also a 28-year-old with one fantastic season on the back of his card and a track record as a reliable No. 3 starter. For the rest of this season, I'm willing to trust the fact that his peripherals have been in line with his career numbers. If he's available in your league, go ahead and give him a shot. If he's owned, check in with his owners before your trade deadline passes.

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