What I Expect: Jason Kendall
Depending on what numbers you look at, Jason Kendall either had a really great year or a really bad year. Either way you choose to look at it, you would be right with your assessment on the Brewers' backstop.
Kendall was asked to do a lot for the team in 2008, including go out every day and manage a young pitching staff through an entire season. Mike Rivera was an unproven big league catcher so Kendall needed to be used as much as possible. Kendall played in 151 games, his highest total since 2001, and wore down noticeably by the end of the year.
A career .293 hitter, Kendall finished 2008 with a .246 average at the plate. His .327 on-base percentage was almost 50 points lower than his .371 career average.
Kendall won't strike out very much; he doesn't walk too much either. He is primarily a singles hitter that can get an occasional extra base hit.
Kendall's greatest success in 2008 was his improvement in throwing out base runners. In 2007, Kendall allowed 111 stolen bases while only throwing out 20 runners.
Last year, after successful laser eye surgery, Kendall only allowed 55 stolen bases and threw out 41 runners. Kendall's improved defense was a giant help to the Brewers' pitching staff.
As important as Kendall was to the Brewers in 2008, his value should increase with less playing time in 2009. Manager Ken Macha has made it clear that Kendall will get set days of rest this year, and Mike Rivera will benefit with more playing time.
Kendall should also benefit with more rest and along with the realization he doesn't have to do it all for the Brewers behind the plate, the Brewers should have a formidable duo behind the plate.
Macha as also brought up the idea of using Kendall in the leadoff spot in certain spots this season as well. Kendall has batted leadoff in the past and has had some success in the spot. He takes a lot of pitches in his at-bats, something Rickie Weeks doesn't always do.
Having Kendall in the top spot could drastically change the lineup.
Would Rickie slide to the two-hole or down to the eighth spot? How would it affect JJ Hardy, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Corey Hart? Would they stay your two through five hitters or would JJ get bumped down to the five-hole, and Hart moved to sixth in the order?
So what should Brewer fans expect from Jason Kendall in 2009? Although Kendall will likely never hit .300 again, there's no reason he can't have significant improvement over his .246 average last year.
I would expect Kendall to hit right around .275, with right around 35 extra base hits. His defense should continue to be solid, but his most significant contribution will be how he handles the development of Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra.
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