Once upon a time there were normal statistics in Major League Baseball. A hitter had batting average, on-base and slugging percentage and homers. Defensively we counted errors and compared that to the number of putouts and chances to tell how successful a defender was. Now things aren’t that simple. There is an entirely new crop of stats based on averages that are kind of difficult to understand. Howie Kendrick of the Los Angeles Angels is proof that I don’t need to understand them.
One such statistic is supposed to measure a defensive player by the plays they make and comparing them to other defenders of the same position making the same play. According to this stat a number of 15 is gold glove quality and 0 is average. It has Kendrick at a negative number this season that is how I know that stat is bunkum.
Allow me to explain. In a game against the Seattle Mariners Kendrick had two outstanding plays. The first was all heads up play by him as a surprise bunt drew both Albert Pujols and the pitcher to the ball. Pujols got to the ball and turned to see Kendrick had hustled over to cover first. That isn’t a play that a below average second baseman makes. It is outstanding alertness and knowledge of the game.
That wasn’t even the impressive one though. Later in the game Kendrick raced over and dove to stop a ball from going into the outfield. The range he used to get there was well above average but the ball bounced away from him. The runner never stopped from second base towards the plate. Kendrick hustled over to the ball without glancing more than once towards home plate. He barehanded the ball, spun around and threw a one-hop strike to nail the runner at home.
No way is that an average play. I don’t think I have seen that play equaled more than a time or two the entire time I’ve watched baseball. If indeed this stat measured Kendrick against what others would do with that ball, they would have nothing to compare it to besides guess work. Even then there is no way to call any handling of a play like that “average” so the stat gets skewed. No matter what anyone says, Kendrick is a big time player for the Angels this year and there are not many second basemen that can claim they are much better overall than he is.