Howie Kendrick and the Batting Title

Raise your hand if Howie Kendrick is one the most frustrating players you’ve ever owned. Yeah, I feel your pain.

When Kendrick was coming through the Angels system, and finally making it to the big leagues in 2007, a common thought was that he’d win a batting title some day. And while he still could, he hasn’t gotten around to it yet and the possibility of him winning one in the future is looking grim.

Throughout his career, Kendrick has been a league average hitter, thanks to his .327 OBP leading him to a 101 wRC+. Because he doesn’t have much in the way of power (his SLG is usually close to league average), and doesn’t like to take many walks, Kendrick’s real life value is going to center around his glove and his batting average.

Kendrick’s made improvements to his contact skills each and every year since 2007, raising his contact% and improving his whiff rate. Unfortunately, his whiff rate hasn’t been the only thing declining, as his BABIP has steadily gone down since ‘07.

In any given year, you need to hit around .360 to win the batting title. Factoring in Kendrick’s playing time, it means that he’ll need upward of 215 hits to push himself into the lead. Then, factoring in his home run and strikeout rates, we can see that Kendrick will need a BABIP around the .440 mark to win the batting title. This is why batters who can hit for power will have an advantage when it comes to the batting crown, because they get an extra 30+ hits every year, allowing their BABIP to be lower.

Should we ever count on Kendrick having a BABIP that high? Of course not, and we should never project that number for anyone, but it happens. All he can do is put himself in the best position to reach base, by limiting his strikeouts and hitting liners.

The odds are against Kendrick becoming the batting champ, but then again, that’s usually the case. I’d bet he delivers a couple more .300 seasons, and eventually lucks into a batting title at some point. But, a .290/12/12 line isn’t bad for a fantasy second baseman who still has some upside.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

8 Responses to “Howie Kendrick and the Batting Title”

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  1. Red Sox Talk says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    Kendrick may not need to be nearly as high as .360 to win the title. An example that comes to mind is Bill Mueller, who won the AL title as recently as 2003 with a .326 average.

    I’m not sure I understand or agree with your statement that power hitters have an easier time winning the batting title. Is it really true that Ichiro Suzuki will have a tougher time winning the batting crown than, say, Miguel Cabrera or Josh Hamilton? I think high strikeout rates will hamper most power hitters from competing in the batting average department. And for those guys with power who don’t strike out too much – well, they’re just better hitters overall than an Austin Jackson or a Brett Gardner.

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    • BWOzar says:

      they’re just better hitters overall than an Austin Jackson or a Jacoby Ellsbury.

      Fixed that – much better. :-)

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      • R M says:

        Than Ellsbury? He doesn’t strike out too much, and he was only 25 during his last full season. He may still have 15 hr pop in his prime.

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      • Shaun Catron says:

        BWOZar hit the nail on the head. Ellsbury is proving his 15-20HR pop now.

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    • phoenix says:

      well ichiro has the amazing abilities to get 250 hits in a season. i dont think that kendrick is ichiro, and i dont think anyone would argue that. and ichiro bats lead off so he gets as many at bats as anyone on that team… and he doesnt exactly get regular off days.

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  2. dcrowell says:

    I’ve always loved the oft-heard statement: “Howie Kendrick will win a batting crown some day.”

    Because the statement is always uttered by the same people who scoff at the value of batting average in the first place.

    Just one of those funny ironies in this fantasy life we lead. It’s the same people who are always touting . . . Alex Gordon . . . Matt Laporta . . . Jeremy Hermida . . . .

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  3. I don’t think a BABIP of .440 *has* ever happened. I was tracking Austin Jackson’s “chase” of a .400 BABIP for most of the regular season and when it looked in late September as if he’d do it I decided to see when it was last done. At the time his BABIP was .415 and I also looked to see when a player last had one of .415. Without going too far on the tangent, I’ll just say that the highest that I was able to find in a qualifying number at-bats was .423 by Babe Ruth in 1923. George Sisler had .422 in 1922 and Rogers Hornsby had .422 in 1924. So unless I missed out on a player, .440 hasn’t happened.

    As an aside, Jackson’s plummeted at the end of the year and ended up at .396.

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  4. AA says:

    Kendrick has the potential to hit for more power than he does. Plus, you can’t forget that Tony Gwynn did not hit for much power or walk much and won 8 batting titles. The key is slashing line drives the other way. The problem for Kendrick is that he chases bad pitches and hits right handed, giving him a natural disadvantage.

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