COMMENTARY | Even if we're just considering the Los Angeles Angels, it's easy for second baseman Howie Kendrick to get lost. By design, the Angels are a star-studded baseball team. They've got Albert Pujols. They've got Josh Hamilton. They've got Mike Trout. They've got Jered Weaver.
Even if we're just considering second basemen in the American League, it's easy for Kendrick to get lost. Over there, we find Robinson Cano with the New York Yankees. A little further out, there's Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. And now, over with the Cleveland Indians, there's Jason Kipnis.
The All-Star teams have been announced, and the Angels have come through this whole exercise with only one player ticketed for Citi Field in New York on July 16. It's Trout, and he is deserving, if for no other reason than that every team must have one representative and Trout is the Angels' best player so far this year.
But Kendrick is not on the All-Star team, despite having an All-Star season by many measures. Across the AL, Kendrick is fifth in hits with 105, eighth in offensive WAR (wins above replacement) at 3.2, and ninth in batting average at .312. He is 19th in OPS at .825 and tied for 14th in WAR for position players at 2.8. By those considerations, Kendrick is an All-Star in 2013.
But those aren't all of the considerations and, again, it comes back to getting lost in shuffles. Two of the top seven AL position players by OPS are second baseman, those being Cano (sixth at .899) and Kipnis (seventh at .895). Further down, we find Pedroia, who is 15th at .837. All are ahead of Kendrick. Additionally, all three of the others are in the top eight AL position players by WAR. Cano is third at 4.4, Pedroia is fourth at 4.2 and Kipnis is eighth at 3.8.
There simply is no way to put Kendrick on the All-Star team ahead of any one of those other three, nor is there a compelling rationale for the AL team to carry four second basemen. In short, there's no room.
And there's more. However, much they may love their guys, discussions with Angels fans about Kendrick tend to focus more on his defects than on his virtues, because his defects are painful. It seems that the mind is riddled with too many memories of Kendrick being the third out of an inning or hitting into inning-ending double plays. Last year, Kendrick grounded into 26 double plays, second most in the AL. This year, he has grounded into 13 double plays, which is third.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Kendrick has taken 887 at-bats, 26 percent of the at-bats he has taken in his eight-year career. And he has grounded into 39 double plays, which is 36 percent of his 109 career total. This season, Kendrick is 20-for-59 (.339) with less than two out and a runner on first. But he has hit into 13 double plays under those circumstances, which means he has produced 52 outs in those 59 at-bats. Last year was even worse. In 104 such at-bats, he had 28 hits (.269) and grounded into 26 double plays, meaning he produced 102 outs in those 104 at-bats.
The clutch hitting numbers for Kendrick are especially tough this year. With two out and runners in scoring position, he's eight-for-44, a .183 batting average and a .515 OPS. Across his career, though, Kendrick is a .270 hitter with two out and runners in scoring position, though his on-base percentage is a paltry .319, leading to a .695 OPS. In the eighth and ninth innings this year, all at-bats considered, Kendrick is 12-for-59 (.203).
In high-leverage situations this year, per Baseball-reference.com, Kendrick is batting .253 with a .670 OPS, compared with .369 and .966 in medium-leverage situations, along with .300 and .805 in low-leverage situations. Across his career, though, those numbers are .296/.753 in high leverage, .294/.775 in medium leverage and .292/.759 in low leverage. So, his numbers this year say he craters in high leverage, but his career numbers say he's basically the same guy whatever the leverage.
On the whole, Kendrick is a solid player. Clutch numbers aside, his offensive marks are never bad, and, this year, they're pretty good. During the last three to five years, he's in the top half of AL second basemen, and he is sometimes in the top third. Good player. Just not an All-Star.
Bill Peterson has covered and written about Major League Baseball for more than 30 years in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Texas and Los Angeles, where he now lives and writes a baseball blog, Big Leagues in Los Angeles. He is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
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