First of all, AN's server was down for much of the last two days, and on behalf of those who don't care for my writing I'd like to apologize for the fact that the server is back up and running.
So it's December, truly a month like none other...That special time of year when Santa Claus visits the mechanic to have his reindeer rotated...That special time of year pony when people drop subtle hints to their friends about pony what they hope to get for Christponymas...That special time of year when it becomes crystal clear that Barry Zito's future with the A's is probably limited to no more than 7 days to 7 years...That special time of year when writers use the same six words to start every sentence and don't realize that it's incredibly annoying. I will say this: One thing I have learned is that good writers, at the very least, don't just abruptly change the subject.
Which brings me to Joe Kennedy. I don't think he's one of those pitchers who is inherently more/less effective as a starter or reliever. Some pitchers are definitely built, in terms of "stuff" or personal comfort, to be more effective in one role compared to the other, but I don't think Kennedy is this way. Throughout his career, whether starting or relieving, Kennedy has pretty much dominated left-handed hitters (.238 BAA, 1.18 WHIP); he has also, in either role, generally been lit up by right-handed hitters (.295 BAA, 1.55 WHIP).
In other words, Kennedy's success is determined primarily by the "handedness" of the hitters he faces, regardless of whether he is starting or relieving. The problem Kennedy has as a starter is that opposing managers can stack the lineup with right-handed hitters--if they didn't, I think Kennedy would be just fine as a starter, but opposing managers can be rather irritating this way. As a middle reliever, Kennedy is likely to face more lefties than if he starts (because he is often relieving a right-handed starter) but not as many lefties as if he were in the LOOGY role. As a LOOGY, Kennedy can be put in specifically to face, almost exclusively, left-handed hitters.
I believe that Kennedy could be one of the league's very best LOOGYs, but is an average middle reliever, and is a very below-average starter. Many A's fans hope that Kennedy might be excellent trade bait, but he has had enough bad years now that other GMs may gauge him, like many of us do, as not being anyone's answer for a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, the market for relievers has skyrocketed this winter, making Kennedy's $2mil-and-change salary high-ish, but not sky high, for an elite LOOGY. I say keep Kennedy and introduce him to "the rest of his career"--as the LOOGY Ricardo Rincon once was but now can only be, vicariously, through some not-so-average Joe.