A little more than a month ago, I looked into Howie Kendrick‘s swing rates at Fangraphs. I didn’t think it was possible for Howie to swing even more than he already did, but he was. And then, I wrote about it, here, because that’s what I do. Then I cursed myself. Normally, whenever I write about a player who is enjoying any kind of hot streak, it spells doom for said player. I really should just stop doing it, but I can’t fight the urge. Especially this season when it is next to impossible to find anything positive worth writing about.
So what has Howie done in the month-plus since I toy’d with fate and wrote about him? Only go freaking bananas, that’s what.
When I wrote last month about Howie, he was sporting a nifty .306/.343/.455 slash line. In some ways better, and other ways, not quite as good as his breakout 2011 campaign. But still well above the two steps back he took last year. Going into tonight’s game, Howie’s current slash line is .328/.370/.480. That batting average of his is currently fourth in the American League. I’m not going to say what you might think I’m going to say about that, but I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions concerning that little tidbit of information. His slugging percentage is sitting at a career best right now, his BB% of 5.4% is nearly identical to 2011 (5.7%), and he has brought his K% down to 17% which is right in line with his career average of 17.5%.
So what is Howie doing differently? Try, everything. His GB% which was at his career average a month ago currently sits at the lowest rate of his career at 49.5%. So even though he is tied for the AL lead in GIDP with Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales, we can take solace in knowing that it is not because he is hitting an inordinate amount of ground balls.
His LD% is up at career best right now as well, sitting comfortably at 28.6%, and well above the league average of 20%. And he had it on display last night with this RBI double into the alley in right-center field.
His FB% of 21.9% doesn’t affect mean one way or the other. What does affect me, is how hard he is hitting the ball when he does put it in the air. And judging by his current what-would-be-a-career-high 17.4% HR/FB rate, I think it is safe to assume that he is hitting the ball hard.
Our slight-of-stature second baseman has always been – albeit, quietly – one of the top five second basemen in the American League, and top 10 in the Majors. But this year, right now, his hitting alone has him ranked higher than that.
American League Second Basemen Ranked by OPS+
Robinson Cano is the presumptive number one second baseman in the American League, and some say in all of baseball. But he trails Howie in terms of OPS+, and Howie’s 139 OPS+ trails only the Cardinals Matt Carpenter (144) and the Giants Marco Scutaro (142). Howie’s OPS of .850 ranks second in the American League, behind Cano. Robbie also sports a .517 SLG% *cough* Yankee Stadium *cough* short porch in right field *cough*, sorry about that. Cano’s 517 SLG% is easily the best in all of baseball among second basemen with at least 250 plate appearances. I do apologize for whatever it was that I got in my throat.
It is possible that Howie is playing so well, that he could be playing his way right out of Anaheim via a trade. But after a lengthy discussion with my bathroom mirror, it doesn’t seem nearly as likely for that scenario to take place. Most – if not all – of the top tier teams that are vying for a playoff spot, are already set at that position. Sure, there is the Colorado Rockies, but they don’t really have much to give back to the Angels in exchange.
Howie Kendrick is turning himself into a bargain signing for the Angels with the production that he is putting up this year, besting a 2011 campaign that many thought was Howie’s ceiling. Howie has been as consistent for the Angels as spotlight grabbers Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have been, and when Jim Leyland fills out the American League All-Star team’s roster later this month, he will have failed miserably if he makes the mistake of leaving Howie Kendrick off of it.