Breaking Down Howie Kendrick

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No, this isn't a post about how often Howie Kendrick is hurt.  This post deals with Kendrick's ability to hit when he's healthy. 

When healthy, second baseman Howie Kendrick is an important part of the Angels' offense and many predict the 25 year-old can possibly be a future batting champion.  One of the traits of becoming a good hitter is the ability to make adjustments, and after looking at this data, Kendrick's biggest adjustment should be how he handles off-speed pitches.

Here's the outcome for every pitch Kendrick saw in 2008. 

 

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Type Speed
(MPH)
Balls Strikes
Called
Strikes
Swinging
Foul-
Foul tip
In play
outs
Singles Doubles Triples Home
Runs
Fastball 92.09 121 58 19 90 51 24 10 2 1
Sinker 90.78 35 21 9 18 18 6 4 0 1
Curveball 77.09 22 31 23 5 4 11 1 0 0
Slider 82.02 83 37 48 33 37 11 8 0 0
Change 81.1 25 8 28 12 13 3 5 0 0
Cutter 90.78 19 14 0 6 8 4 1 0 0
Splitter 88.73 13 11 4 10 6 3 2 0 1

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(Note: There's either something wrong with the data or something wrong with the way I interpret it.  Some of the Pitch/FX totals don't match Kendrick's actual season totals.  For example, if you add the number of P/FX doubles you get 31, but Kendrick's actual season total of doubles is 26.  So, some of the results I get are going to be slightly off, but not enough to invalidate the study).

Pretty much a big mess.  But we are able to get some good information from the numbers.  Kendrick saw 1038 pitches, of which 633 were either fastballs or sliders (61%).  Of the 376 fastballs thrown to Kendrick, he was able to get hits off of 37 (9.8%).  Here's the totals for each pitch:

Pitch Total Hits Pct.
Fastball 376 37 9.8%
Sinker 112 11 9.8%
Curveball 97 12 12.4%
Slider 257 19 7.4%
Change 94 8 8.5%
Cutter 52 5 9.6%
Splitter 50 6 12.0%

Looks like Howie's a pretty good curveball hitter, but has a harder time handling the slider.  Kendrick's ability to get on base is directly related at how often he makes contact as he rarely walks.  And since he rarely walks, he needs to make contact when he swings in order to be effective.  Here's what happens when he doesn't make contact:

Strikes Swinging -

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Fastball 93.79 19
Sinker 89.74 9
Curveball 77.05 23
Slider 82.43 48
Change 81.64 28
Splitter 86.86 4

 

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Most of his swinging strikes came against sliders, but did he have the most problems making contact with sliders?  Here's the percentage of times Kendrick swung and missed for each pitch:

Pitch Total Strikes
Swinging
Pct.
Fastball 376 19 5.1%
Sinker 112 9 8.0%
Curveball 97 23 23.7%
Slider 257 48 18.7%
Change 94 28 29.8%
Cutter 52 0 0.0%
Splitter 50 4 8.0%

Okay, I take back what I said about him being able to hit the curveball.  Looking at it this way, Kendrick has a harder time making contact on all off-speed pitches.  I'm assuming those swinging strikes up in the zone were fastballs he couldn't catch up to, the remaining strikes coming from off-speed pitches away.  Let's take a look at just the sliders:

Strike swinging - Slider

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Slider 82.43 48

 

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Having a hard time laying off of those low and away sliders, Mr. Kendrick?  (By the way, most of the curveballs he swung and missed were also away)

During the 2009 season, Kendrick struck out 58 times.  Here's a break down of those strike outs:

Count Strike outs
0 - 2 17
1 - 2 21
2 - 2 14
3 - 2 6

0 - 2 Count (30 Plate Appearances, 0 walks)
16 strike outs swinging, 1 K looking

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Fastball 95.19 1
Curveball 78.24 4
Slider 85.39 6
Change 81.18 5

 

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17 strike outs, 16 were swinging.  Ouch.  Laying off the 0 - 2 pitch seems like a pretty big weakness in Kendrick's game, and it looks like pitchers are exploiting that weakness.

1 - 2 Count (60 Plate Appearances, 0 walks)
15 strike outs swinging, 6 K looking

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Fastball 94.02 2
Sinker 89.53 1
Curveball 76.65 4
Slider 79.99 8

 

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2 - 2 Count (36 Plate Appearances, 0 walks)
12 strike outs swinging, 2 K looking

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Fastball 94.36 3
Sinker 89.53 2
Curveball 76.5 3
Slider 79.96 1
Change 81.01 3

 

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With a 2 - 2 count, it looks like the pitchers have stopped trying to get Kendrick to chase the low and away pitch.  I'm just guessing it's because they don't want to go to a full count.

3-2 Count (25 Plate Appearances, 7 walks)
3 strike outs swinging, 3 K looking

Type Speed (MPH) Strikes Swinging
Slider 83.37 1
Change 85.66 2

 

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Yeah, those pitchers were right as he does do better when the count goes full, only striking out 6 times.

Summary
When there are two strikes in the count, Howie Kendrick can count on getting off-speed pitches.  Based on this data from 2008, in the 58 strike outs Kendrick had only 6 were on fastballs.  The biggest question regarding Howie Kendrick in 2009 will be if he can stay healthy enough to help the Angels.  The second question will be if he has the ability to make the necessary adjustments to off-speed pitches to become the offensive threat the Angels need.

(Thanks to Hardball Times and Josh Kalk's Pitch/FX Tool for this data)

 

 

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