Whenever I sit down and watch the Dodgers play, I constantly think of the status of players and their future with the team. Like this: Corey Seager… amazing, not sure what we’d do without him. Kenta Maeda…. consistently solid. Some of these “thoughts” can change throughout the season… and a classic example of this is Yazmani Grandal. It wasn’t too long ago that Dodgers fans wanted to run him out of town, but now he is just on fire. A player on the more “difficult” side to grade is Howie Kendrick. What is the deal with him?
There were a lot of questions on if Kendrick was even going to come back to the Dodgers for this season. Kike Herndandez had a breakout year, and Chase Utley was signed to a one-year deal in early December. In late January, the Dodgers reupped Kendrick for two years, placing the question, where will he fit? Will he platoon with Utley? Platoons aren’t my favorite.
With Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Scott Van Slyke injured in spring training, Kendrick was thrown out in left field, where he’s had some outfield experience, but not too much. This was also a peculiar move given that Kendrick isn’t a spring chicken anymore (he’s 33 years old). Plus, with the need of Seager at the front of the lineup, Kendrick has been moved towards the back end of the lineup. Giving these new circumstances that Kendrick was in, it makes sense that he had a hard time getting used to his new role on the team. In April, Kendrick had a sad .151 average.
As the season progressed, the Dodgers kept piling on more injuries, leaving Kendrick having to trot out there most nights and cover spots that had to be filled. Kendrick’s been the primary left fielder for the Dodgers as well as filling in for Chase Utley at second base. Kendrick has even played a little at 3rd and 1st base as well. Kendrick has been so all over the place that even the Internet is confused on what position he is. If you Google “Howie Kendrick position” you will see second baseman, but if you go on the Dodgers depth chart, he is listed at the top of the LF depth chart.
Kendrick has steadily improved in his new “super utility” role, and after the All-Star break, he’s been red hot. In July, Kendrick had a stellar .344 average with a .425 on base percentage. This month he has a .290 average with a .333 on base percentage.
Along with Adrian Gonzalez, Kendrick has proven that he is one of the most reliable Dodgers in getting on base. It is well documented that the Dodgers have struggles against left handed pitchers due to their left handed dominant lineup, so a righty like Kendrick who can get hits against both righties and lefties is paramount. In the playoffs against the Mets last year, against top quality pitching, Kendrick was up to the task, having 6 hits (tied second on the team behind Justin Turner) and had a steady .273 average. It is everyone’s hope that Grandal, Seager, and Pederson can hit in October unlike last season, but Howie Kendrick’s consistency cannot be understated.
Kendrick staying with the Dodgers for another year after this season is a blessing in disguise. It is unclear if Chase Utley would come back and play at 38 years of age, leaving a question mark at second base. Kendrick could fill that role and hold down the job before Willie Calhoun from AA is ready to play. If Andre Ethier or Trayce Thompson can’t find their footing, Howie can be there in left field. Needless to say, his value is through the roof.