Lately every time I mention Jason Kendall in a post there's conversation about him in the comments. And his name has come up a lot lately. Here are three things we've discussed in the last two weeks:
In-Between Hops noted a past feud between Kendall and Macha when the two were in Oakland.
- Macha announced he plans to rest Kendall more in 2009.
- He later announced he's planning to control the running game from the bench as well.
Offensively, there's not much debate about Kendall's value. He posted a .651 OPS last season, which isn't that far above replacement level at baseball's weakest offensive position. He's not likely to make any great strides in that category in 2009: the four projections posted on his FanGraphs page have his OPS between .650 and .673 in 2009.
Defensively, however, Kendall had a career year in 2008. He caught 41 of 96 attempted base-stealers, 42.7%. That's the second-highest percentage of his career (43.5 in 1999). In both 2005 and 2007 he was under 20%.
Defense was the exclusive source of Kendall's value in 2008, but it provided a fair amount of value. In their post on 2008 catchers, Beyond the Box Score said Kendall "might just have been the most valuable player to hit like a shlub." They estimated his defensive value at 14 runs, or about 1.4 wins.
Was Kendall's defensive improvement permanent? It's tough to say. There were stories before the 2008 season about how Kendall worked on his footwork and had LASIK surgery prior to the season. One could argue that these changes improved Kendall's defense significantly, but one could also make a case for 2008 being a statistical outlier.
One thing is for sure: Kendall wants to catch every day, and has done it for a long time. 2008 was the ninth season in Kendall's career where he's caught 140 games or more. As noted on his advent calendar page, Kendall has caught more games than all but 12 catchers in baseball history, and could move all the way up to sixth on the all-time list by catching 153 games in 2009.
So, imagine for a minute you're the new manager of the Brewers. How would you use Jason Kendall in 2009? Vote in the poll below.