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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.