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.

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

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:

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.