May 9, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick (47) hits a single against the Houston Astros in the second inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Howie Kendrick: Swing Away

Coming into the season, I wrote this little ditty, profiling/forecasting Howie Kendrick. Coming out of the minors, Howie was supposed to win multiple batting titles, but I’m sure you’ve heard that line before. What Howie has developed into, is a solid major leaguer, who annually ranks among the top 10 second basemen in all of baseball. Not a bad shake if you ask me.

Even with last season being a few steps back from his breakout campaign in 2011 (you know, the one where his power finally showed up), he still didn’t lose his status amongst the best second baggers in the game. At least, to baseball pundits he didn’t. For Angels fans, the acronym “GIDP” became synonymous with the Florida native. Those things, of course, tend to happen when a player finds himself among the league leaders in grounding into twin killings.

So how about we check in on our “not quite six feet tall” pivot man? In the GIDP department, Howie is once again doing his best to snuff out rallies. The six he has grounded into are two behind American League leader Kendrys Morales (remember him), and one behind the perpetually hobbled Albert Pujols (facepalm). It also puts him four behind the Philadelphia Phillies big splash, Delmon Young (Everybody point and laugh at Ruben Amaro Jr.), which is astounding since he started off the year hurt. But that’s another laugh fest for another time. Back to Howie, his six GIDP so far, puts him on a pace to hit into 29 GIDP by the end of the season. Which is completely unacceptable.

But, there is a silver lining. Howie seems to have regained his power stroke that made him an All-Star in 2011. He has already clubbed five home runs this season, and has a current slash line of .306/.343/.455, which is good for an OPS+ of 124. His career slugging percentage, by the way, is .429, and in 2011 he had it up to a career high of .464. It also could be that his propensity for grounding to 4-6-3′s, is simply a byproduct of bad luck (or good defensive positioning) so far this season.

Last year, Howie had a GB% that was a career high 58.6% (career average is 54.2), with a preposterous GB% of 71% in high leverage situations. So far this season, that GB% is currently at 55.4%. Still above his career norms, but much closer to them than last year. And that missing 3%, has turned into line drives. Kendrick is currently sporting a line drive right that, if maintained, would be the highest of his career at 23.2%. So what has Howie done differently? Swing, more. Just typing that feels weird. This is Howie Kendrick we are talking about, the swing happiest swinger to ever have swung a swinging bat. He’s currently swinging at 53.4% of pitches thrown to him, his career average is 48.1%. Walks be damned, if Howie is going down, he’s going down swinging.

Would it be nice to see Kendrick work more walks? Sure it would. Walks are infinitely better than two outs on one swing, but Howie is not a walker. He never was and he never will be. It is time that we accept Howie Kendrick for what he is, a hyper-aggressive, free-swinging second baseman. And we really shouldn’t hate too much on his approach at the plate. Here’s the Angels all-time OPS leaders with a minimum of 2500 PA:

Rk Player OPS
1 Vladimir Guerrero .927
2 Tim Salmon .884
3 Jim Edmonds .856
4 Troy Glaus .854
5 Chili Davis .829
6 Torii Hunter .814
7 Brian Downing .813
8 Bobby Grich .806
9 Wally Joyner .801
10 Doug DeCinces .798
11 Garret Anderson .796
12 Don Baylor .785
13 Rod Carew .784
14 Reggie Jackson .782
15 Howie Kendrick .758
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/10/2013.

Not too bad of company if you ask me. And, side note, Bobby Grich, not a Hall of Famer, travesty.

I see ya' Howie, I see ya'. Just keep on doing what it is you do, it's worked for you for this long, no sense in changing it now. Except for the inordinate amount of ground balls. Knock the mess the hell off.

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Tags: Howie Kendrick Los Angeles Angels Swing Away

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  • RyanWKrol

    There’s another fact on which showed me just how Howie measures up vs Kinsler and Pedroia on the offensive side. HK’s home/road BA are almost dead even. But get this, his seasonal average power numbers jump when he goes on the road. Kinsler and Pedroia have almost the same seasonal averages away from their home ballparks (hitters parks) as HK has away from the Big A, which is a pitchers park. So one could argue that HK could be putting up the same exact numbers as Pedroia and Kinsler IF he was playing 2B for either the Red Sox or Rangers instead. It’s this fact that has had me telling fans that HK has a 25 HR / 100 RBI ceiling as a player, but there’s a chance we’ll never see that playing 81 games at the Big A. The only real chance he has of hitting that ceiling with the Angels is if guys like Trumbo and Hamilton do what they do best, and get on base for HK enough for him to drive in 100. Then again, with those kinds of players on the Rangers or Red Sox, Howie could sell himself as a 100+ RBI player. But again, we’ll probably never really know that unless HK departs for a team in a hitters park after his contract with the Angels expires.

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