Part III of our comparative study of Angel players and those down the ages who have performed kinda like them at the same age. Part I (Napoli/Mathis) explained the methodology, Part II (Kendry Morales) went down a weird Andre Thornton-shaped rabbit hole. Onward to Howie Doubles!
topper: .296/.350/.462, 106 OPS+ Jose Vidro
middle: .277./365/.406, 97 OPS+ Ronnie Belliard
ourboy: .302/.333/.434, 99 OPS+ Howie Kendrick
bottom: .248/.320/.373, 88 OPS+ Bernie Allen
Top-125 Rankings in Bill James' 2001 Historical Abstract? Considering that Kendrick's career so far has been a disappointment, more than you might expect: Jim Gilliam 27, Robby Thompson 42, Davey Johnson 46, Frank Bolling 65, Hughie Critz 83, Dick Green 92, Odell Hale 98, Wally Backman 106, Otto Knabe 118, Bernie Allen 123. Vidro would make the list if it was re-done today.
Any other interesting people on this list? Lots of characters and/or future managers -- Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Davey Johnson, Wally Backman, etc.
In your heart, you know this comp is right: I'm going to go with Jose Vidro, for the unusual (for this group) combination of batting average and doubles-fueled power, plus moderate walks. Though he was mocked ruthlessly during his exit gig as Mariners DH, Vidro was a helluva ballplayer from 1999-2003 (ages 24-28), hitting between .304-.330, with 34-51 doubles and 12-24 home runs each year. Does that seem out of reach for Howie? Consider the two players' comparative stats per 162 games:
NM AB R H 2B 3 HR RB SB/C BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+
JV 584 82 174 39 1 15 75 3/2 55 64 .298 .359 .445 108
HK 599 83 181 42 4 10 76 15/5 23 106 .302 .333 .434 99
I think Howie's power will certainly get there -- recall that, as Sam Miller taught, us, Howie's 10 home runs last year traveled farther on average than any other American League player's -- but his strike zone judgment (even after his leap forward on that front last year) is hurting the value of his offense.
But more importantly, when is this guy gonna have even 400 at bats in a season? For someone who, unlike Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli, was handed the job outright three years ago, Kendrick has put up the above numbers while failing to come withing even 80% of qualifying for the batting title. You know how many of Kendrick's 23 comps never qualified for the batting title before their age-26 year? Exactly two: Stu Martin (who was just five plate appearances away), and Ken Boswell, who couldn't hit left-handers with a backstop. Players this good play, period, unless they suffer a chronic injury. Kendrick is entering unchartered territory here, so I greatly look forward to next offseason, when all these 100-game seasons and the nagging doubts they produe will be behind us.
Other interesting facts about this group? Uh, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Jim Gilliam, and Davey Williams all played for New York clubs in 1953? That's all I got.
Next up: Erick Aybar!