If Howie Kendrick is anything, he’s a case study for how batting average doesn’t really tell the entire story. Here’s his batting average over the last five years:
Pretty static, right? A few bloops here & there and a little bit of BABIP luck or not slightly changes the numbers, but Kendrick has been essentially the exact same guy for five years in a row, if you only worry about batting average.
Now let’s look at that same chart, but with wOBA included:
That looks just a little different, doesn’t it? Kendrick has seen some pretty up-and-down spikes in his wOBA even as his batting average has remained constant, and that’s because his slugging percentage has bounced from .444 to .407 to .464 to .400 to .439.
But even in a “good” year, Kendrick didn’t really translate that into much fantasy value, ranking just 16th in our end of season standings. That’s because he has some pop but not a lot (tied for 9th among second basemen), not all that much speed (six steals, the first time since 2007 he didn’t have at least 11), and found himself in a tough spot in the Anaheim lineup. That’s because he spent much of the year hitting sixth, and we all know how badly Josh Hamilton & Albert Pujols struggled and that Mark Trumbo either hits homers or doesn’t get on base.
The good news, if there is some, is that Kendrick was showing some slightly improved skills before the knee injury that robbed him of a month and hurt those counting stats. His line drive percentage was well up to 27.1, his HR/FB was nearly what it had been in 2011 when he hit 18 homers, and his K% dropped to 17.3, which is partially why he got a bit of a batting average bump without a change in his BABIP.
Still, we’ve seen enough of Kendrick at this point that it doesn’t seem likely that after nearly 4,000 plate appearances he’s going to substantially change who he is, even accounting for the wOBA swings. He’ll get you a batting average between .280-.300, he’ll give you 10-12 steals and 10-13 homers (assuming the knee problem doesn’t linger), and that’s a useful if otherwise unexciting player. Draftable, sure. Worth spending a few dollars on, absolutely. Someone worth stretching to get or the guy who is going to carry you to the playoffs? Not likely.