Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 26, 2004
BASEBALL: Why Give Up On Kinney?
Start with the reasons why they did. Heís now on his fourth organization; the Red Sox traded him to Minnesota for Greg Swindell back in 1998, and the Twins dealt him to Milwaukee two years ago when they ran out of room on their 40-man roster. Heís got a 5.18 career ERA, which isnít good. Like far too many Royalsí pitchers, heís a little too prone to flyballs (0.83 G/F ratio, 55 HR in 361 career IP).
Now here are all the reasons why they shouldnít have. Heís not that old (27). Heís cheap ($400,000), although I think heíll be arbitration-eligible this winter. He can miss bats, and heís getting better at it. His K/9 ratio is 6.80 for his career, and consider this progression: 5.10, 6.14, 7.18, 7.51. Last season, he struck out 152 batters in 190 innings. Do you know how long itís been since a Royals pitcher struck out 152 batters? Try 1997, by a pre-injury Kevin Appier.
And most importantly, he appears to have taken a big leap forward this season. His strikeout rate is the best of his careerÖand so is his walk rate (3.32 per 9). His ERA this season is 5.78, but most of that damage was done in the seasonís first six weeks. His ERA on May 15th was 8.61; since then, this is his line:
31.2 IP, 35 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 30 K, 3.13 ERA.
Plus, itís worth noting that heís been awfully hit-unlucky this year, surrendering 8 hits more than expected, which is a pretty margin in just 62 innings.
And weíre not talking about a soft-tosser; Kinney throws in the mid-90s, and was considered a top prospect in the minor leagues.
So why did the Brewers flat-out release him? Damned if I know. He was definitely getting torched by lefties (.379/.443/.543). While his platoon splits have never been as dramatic as they were this year, that may always be a problem for him. And the turnaround to his season corresponds to the time he was demoted to the bullpen. He had a 9.72 ERA as a starter this season, and even though heís been pitching well in relief, I suppose the Brewers may be disappointed by what Kinney hasnít become, as opposed to what he has.
What he has become is a pretty damn good reliever, with the stuff and sudden breakout in his K/BB ratio to suggest continued upside. The Royals plan to use him in middle relief, and maybe thatís all heíll ever be good for. But itís sure as hell worth giving him the roster spot to find out.
Point, Allard Baird.