If the months of April through August didn't convince you that the 2012 season has been an absolutely bizarre one, then maybe this next sentence will: Kyle Kendrick was one of the best pitchers in the National League over the past 30 days.
Yes, you read that right.
The 28-year-old right-hander, who has been the the reason for much ire from many a Phillies fan over the course of his career, has been an absolute beast in the past month, and counts himself among the game's elite. Since August 14th, when he tossed seven shutout innings in Miami, through Monday night's start in the Phillies 3-1 win, Kyle is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 41.1 innings. He has 33 strikeouts in that span to only 7 walks, and held opponents to a .524 OPS. It's a far cry from his performance through Aug. 13, where he had an ERA of nearly 5.00 in 96 innings split between the bullpen and the rotation, where opponents had a .813 OPS against him.
In short: he's been great. In that same span, he is fifth in the Majors in ERA, ahead of such Aces as Felix Hernandez, Gio Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels,
R.A. Dickey, Johnny Cueto, and so on, and so on.
The biggest difference for Kendrick in that span is his ability to throw strikes. Prior to 2012, he's had a career K/9 of 4.1, and a career BB/9 of 2.6. And since his streak started last month? He's walking all of 1.49 per nine, while striking out 7.02 per nine. It's a marked difference that has allowed Kendrick to get outs without having to rely on the hitters to put the ball in play. He's long been a “pitch to contact” guy, which can be troublesome if you don't have a great sinker or are unable to generate ground balls at a high rate.
The big question, now, is whether or not he can keep this up. He doesn't have a dominating repertoire, and he can't throw a fastball by someone like Justin Verlander, but that doesn't mean he can't continue to have success if the reason for success was something tangible. That is, unless Kendrick is only getting lucky (his .204 BABIP would suggest that he is getting a bit lucky on balls in play), then he should be able to continue pitching well, assuming that he changed his arm slot or pitch grip or something.
Whatever the reason for this success, it's going a long way to keeping the Philles in the race for the second Wild Card. Ad if they want to have a chance to play October baseball, then he's going to need to keep it up.