When the Phillies kick off the 2013 season, they're going to need to have already filled some holes, including a pair of spots in the rotation.
Obviously Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have the first three slots in the rotation locked up. The fourth rotation spot should belong to Vance Worley, provided that Worley can return healthy from elbow surgery.
But what about the final spot? Well, it should be Kyle Kendrick's to lose. Kendrick didn't have a magical 2012 season or anything, but he did an above-average job over the course of an extended period of time.
Kendrick made 25 starts for the Phils in 2012, tying Roy Halladay for the third most on the team. He pitched 159.1 innings, also third most on the team. He posted a 3.90 ERA, the third-lowest for starters on the team, behind only Lee and Hamels.
Kendrick's 3.90 ERA gives him an ERA+ of 103, which is also, the third-best number by any Phillies starting pitcher. Sure, he was only 11-12, but wins and losses are largely luck-based. If you need any more proof of that, just check out Lee going 6-8 despite posting a 129 ERA+.
A few other peripheral stats support the retention of Kendrick in the rotation as well. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio was 6.6, the highest of his career. And his strikeouts-to-walks ratio was 2.37 -- also a career high.
Additionally, his second-half splits indicate a guy who really poured it on late, as he went 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA after the break while posting a 3.11 SO/BB ratio. Kendrick was substantially better after the break, and that, along with his other stats, at least could possibly portend a breakout.
Don't bank on Kendrick turning into a Cy Young candidate, much less the ace of this staff. But if he can be the pitcher he was in the second half over the course of a full season in 2013, and if the Phils can get Worley to bounce back, they'd have, hands down the best pitching staff in baseball.
That means an immediate ability of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to go out and plug other offensive and bullpen holes now, rather than sweating the addition of another starter.
Kendrick's earned his job for the future and deserves to be rewarded as a result.