Nationals Baseball: Howie Kendrick - Secret weapon

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Howie Kendrick - Secret weapon

Howie Kendrick has been on a tear since joining the Nats. .386  with 4 home runs.  That can't last can it? Well, no but It isn't impossible that Kendrick has one last really good season in him and this is it.

Kendrick, we discussed earlier, is a high average guy He hasn't hit over .300 since 2008 but he's had a .291, a .297, a .293, and a .295 since then. The last one was as late as 2015 so the thought he could go not only over .300 but well over .300 isn't that far fetched. Especially given his moderate 33 year old age.

We noted that he didn't have a lot of pop. His career best HR total is 18, second best 13. He's not much of a doubles hitter either - career best 41 but next best 33. But this season... this season is different for a lot of people. The league isoSLG (SLG - AVG, basically pulling the singles out of slugging) was under .140 then last year it jumped to .158, this year it's over .170.  That's not a HUGE difference .140 to .170 but it's the difference between last year's MAT and last year's Werth. The difference between a guy hitting 26 doubles and 17 homers and a guy hitting 28 doubles and 21 homers. A half-step up at least.

Well what if you have a guy that always has made good contact, who always hit the ball hard far more than he hit the ball soft, who tends to put the ball in play and drop him into this environment? Seems like he's ripe to take advantage of that. Maybe not for as much advantage as the guys that swing for the fences all the time* - I'd like him to keep up this bombing if he hit more flyballs - but for getting those frozen ropes to now carry into the gaps? Yes.

Ultimately this may present an issue that we wouldn't have thought but was brought up in the comments. If Kendrick is now a guy who can hit .300+ with reliable doubles power, if he's a guy who can field left moderately well and who is more than an outside threat to steal a base... don't you have to consider starting that guy over Jayson Werth, if he gets back?

The Nats probably won't do that. Werth is more than a player, he's a totem. He's someone the team rallies around and someone the fans identify as the face of the good Nats. This could very well be his last season here. If he's ready, he'll play. And let's not forget Werth has shown he's a smart, adaptable hitter. He would likely take advantage of the souped up balls as well. He was already on pace for 25+ homers in a 140 games or so season before going down. But Werth can't overcome the defense gap that would only be worse with a gimpy foot, and his smart though not all that fast baserunning would be affected as well. It's very likely down the stretch in 2017 that Howie would be the slightly more valuable player.

*This would be an interesting thing to look at. SLG has gone up. Who gets the biggest push? Is it guys with a lot of fly balls or guys with a lot of hard hit balls? It would suggest the guys to pick-up / avoid when something changes in the equipment being used.

12 comments:

G Cracka X said...

Go Howie! Great pickup for the Nats.

One thing I would point out is that Howie hasn't been an everyday starter for much of '17. So its possible that the slight advantage he has over Werth would be negated by the grind of playing a full game most days. Maybe his numbers are up because he is able to stay more rested.

Froggy said...

Yup. Kendrick over Werth. The question becomes does Werth make the post season roster.

Nick R said...

I would like to see Harper in center, Werth in left, Howie in right; however that will never happen. When the Nats get their starting line up back (minus Eaton) and backed by Scherzer, Gio, and Stras, the team will be hard to beat in the playoffs.

John O'Connor said...

In Dusty's postgame presser last night, a reporter started a question by saying "You acquired Kendrick with the idea that he could be a valuable guy off the bench in the playoffs . . .," and Dusty interrupted him by saying, "who said that?" I took that as Dusty taking issue with the assumption that Kendrick is a bench player. Agree, though, that Werth is going to play if healthy.

Rob Evans said...

I brought this up on another site. I think the Nats should roll with Howie in left and spell him with Werth. Werth is a slow starter and given the time of his lay-off and the remaining games (regular and post season), it's reasonable to think that Werth won't contribute much. Much like football or basketball, it's better to go with the hot hand in short time frames.

Of course the Nats won't do this because of all the reasons you laid out Harper.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember Howie needing time off for chronic back issues just a week or so ago with the Nats, and on-and-off all season with the Phillies. I think the consensus here is pretty much right - as long as Werth can stand in LF, he'll start - and even though hopefully well rested for a stretch run into October, it make take a few weeks for Werth to get his batters eye and swing back in the groove, so think he'll need the playing time.

Looks like Howie is in RF today against the Angels...

John C. said...

These sort of questions tend to work themselves out anyway. With six weeks to go until the playoffs, it's unlikely that Kendrick will be bashing HRs at this pace. We'll have a better read on Werth's health and effectiveness. As others have noted, Kendrick has also had some back issues. I don't see the point of arguing over who should start in the playoffs now, because much of the relevant data is not yet available.

Werth is a slow starter? What is that based on? If he is a slow starter, it doesn't show up in his offensive splits. His career splits month by month are actually remarkably consistent. His splits this season month-to-month were also consistent (April .815, May .809). In 2016 he weirdly alternated months in terms of production, but was actually better in April than May.

Bjd1207 said...

Is there any chance Werth takes the bench role of his own accord? He's a smart enough guy and been around baseball long enough to know he's hurting the team if he doesn't come back into form while Kendrick is killing it.

And I think it's an even bigger statement for the totem/leader/rally point to say "Kendrick is our best LF'er right now, and if we want to win games he should start. I'm ready to jack some pinch hit homeruns like its 2014"

Harper said...

BJD - It's not impossible, but I think it would be a situation where he couldn't really help on the field. He could swing a bat but not run and he knows it. In that sense he'd accept not starting but he'd also be taking the place of a "full player" on the bench.

PotomacFan said...

Harper: any way that you can review 2017 games to determine runs scored with Bryce in the line-up and without Bryce in the line-up. I recognize that there are other variables, but the last 5 games makes me think that the Nats really miss Bryce's bat. But then, maybe it's just a cold streak.

G Cracka X said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G Cracka X said...

"I know your natural instinct is to say 'So he's a 3.40 ERA guy. Great. So a #3 type maybe, probably a #4' but remember. We WILDLY overrate how good pitchers should be by their rotation spot. A 3.40 ERA is good enough for TENTH in the NL in qualified pitchers"

Interestingly, Edwin Jackson now has a combined ERA of 3.43 in '17. Small sample size, obviously, but is it time to start wondering if the Nats should bring him back next year while Ross recovers from surgery?