There aren’t many second baseman who can do what Howie Kendrick can do. Unfortunately, his skills don’t necessarily translate to huge value in the fantasy game, and as a result people never seem to be able to give the guy his due for what he does do. I get it. In today’s sports world it’s often more about what a guy can’t do than what he can do. It’s en vogue to tear people down. It’s also fairly normal for people to place unreasonable expectations on players and then to be upset when they don’t do what they were never going to do in the first place. I think Howie could be the poster boy for this movement.
What does Kendrick do well? He hits for average, year after year. Take a look at Kendrick’s career batting average numbers.
Only once has he failed to hit .285. Moreover, since the 2006 season his .292 batting average is fourth among second sackers (minimum 2,000 plate appearances). In addition, Robinson Cano and Kendrick are the only two second baseman who have hit at least .279 in each of the past seven seasons. The guy is money in the bank in batting average.
Kendrick is far from a stolen base demon, but he still knows how to swipe a bag. Though he’s never stolen more than 14 bases in a season, he’s exactly hit that total each of the past three years. There are only three second sackers who have 14 steals each of the last three years; Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips and Kendrick. Howie also stole 11 bases in 2008 and 2009 giving him 5-straight seasons of 11 thefts of bases. The group of men that have done that who play second base number four; Kinsler, Phillips, Chase Utley and Kendrick.
Kendrick is not a power hitter. He never will be. Over the past four seasons he’s averaged 11.5 homers per season. After hitting 18 homers in ’11 hopes were raised higher than they should have been. Back to my point at the top. People thought that Kendrick would hit 20 homers in a good season and 15 in a down year. He went deep eight times. Everyone threw a fit forgetting that Kendrick hit 10 homers in 2009 and 10 homers in 2010. His total of eight last year is way more the hitter he is than the 18 he hit in ’11 – that’s just a fact.
Kendrick is not a big time RBI man. The lack of power is a problem as is the fact that the two spots in the batting order in which he has had the most at-bats are second and seventh in the order. Not exactly huge run producing positions. Still, his total of 67 RBIs in ’12 was the second best mark of his career, so there is no room to complain.
Kendrick isn’t a big time run scorer. The reason, and it seems odd given the rest of his “game,” is the fact that he has never learned how to take a walk. Ever. His career-high is 33 walks, and when you walk that infrequently, even when you have an impressive batting average, you just don’t get on base enough to score a ton (Kendrick’s career OBP is .328, two points lower than the AL average since he entered the league). A year after scoring a career-high 86 runs people expected that to be his new level despite the fact that he scored 61 and 67 runs in 2009-10. Given those lower totals his 57 runs scored isn’t out of the realm of what should have been expected.
So let’s put it all together. How many second baseman have hit .279-8-61-57-11 the past four years? One – Howie Kendrick. The numbers might not be anything that stands out, I’m the first to admit that, but that consistency gives you a solid baseline that you can expect from Kendrick. He’s not great. He’s not a difference maker. But I’ll tell you this. He’s consistently solid across the board, so if I miss out on the Cano’s and Kinsler’s of the world early in a draft I’m content to wait until the middle rounds to roster Kendrick as my second sacker.
By Ray Flowers