The Washington Post
Kendrick is a reserve with all-star numbers
It was easy to miss by the end of Sunday afternoon, once history was made, once the Washington Nationals’ latest win was defined by four swings instead of one.
But it did happen. Howie Kendrick, somehow, had delivered again.
“I kind of expect it out of him because he’s been so good, because he’s a professional,” shortstop Trea Turner said after a 5-2 victory, their 11th in 15 games. “Every time he goes up there he gives us a good at-bat, seems to put the barrel on the ball. This year — and even last year — he’s been raking. He’s been hot the whole time.”
Turner was discussing Kendrick’s go-ahead homer against the San Diego Padres on Sunday, the first of four straight blasts in the eighth inning that put Washington in front for good. But he also was talking about Kendrick’s whole season, the biggest surprise for the nowsurging Nationals, the fact that it’s almost mid-June and the 35year-old is still crushing baseballs. He has a .327 average, .960 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 11 homers as a part-time starter and ace pinch hitter.
He has been better when the situation is bigger, often yanking Washington away from disaster with his bat, and served as a needed, productive replacement for the still-injured Ryan Zimmerman (at first base) and Anthony Rendon (at third) when he was out. It is hard to overstate Kendrick’s value to the Nationals, who are still trying to navigate out of a dreadful start. And it’s also raised an interesting possibility as summer begins.
“Man, he means the world,” Rendon said Sunday. “He should definitely be an all-star, that’s for sure. Nobody’s talking about him.”
Rendon has said he would be glad to be an all-star with one provision: He doesn’t want to go to Cleveland for the game. He would rather spend the four days off with his family. So it’s worth considering that an endorsement for Kendrick is, in some small part, a ploy to have his spot filled should he lose to Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado in fan voting.
But Rendon may be onto something. There are two challenges to considering Kendrick’s chances of being an all-star. The first is that he is not on the official ballot — since he’s not a full-time starter — and needs to be written (or typed) in by fans. The second is that he doesn’t have a set position; he has made 18 starts at first base, 14 at third and 13 at second. He could sneak in as a reserve because they are selected by player ballots and the commissioner’s office.
A quick scan of his numbers say he should be in the mix to join the National League’s bench. He has been incredible for the Nationals in “clutch” situations. With two outs? He’s delivered three home runs, 13 RBI and a .365 average. After he has fallen into an 0-2 count, the toughest spot for hitters? He has five home runs and a ridiculous 1.008 OPS. How about with runners in scoring position, the kind of situation that has been tough for most Nationals this season? Kendrick has a .400 batting average and 30 RBI. With runners in scoring position with two outs, he’s hitting .333.
Whether this makes Kendrick an all-star or brings deserved praise doesn’t matter to him. He prefers not to talk about himself or his success this year or define it as anything other than him taking the same plate approach as always. Kendrick is often called a “professional hitter,” and he has a .292 average across 14 seasons to back that up. He’s just happy to have fully recovered from a torn right Achilles’ that kept him out for most of last season.