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2016 Dodgers review: Howie Kendrick

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Kendrick was Mr. Versatile in 2016

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A look back at the strange 2016 season of Howie Kendrick, who contributed to the Dodgers in ways not many would have guessed this season.

What went right

Kendrick gets full credit or his willingness to play pretty much anywhere, including several positions he barely played before. A 10-year veteran who entered 2016 with 1,061 career starts at second base, Kendrick played three other positions this season:

  • 94 games, 79 starts in left field, a position he last played in 2013 and last started in 2011
  • 17 games, 14 starts at third base, a position he last played in 2006
  • 11 games, 7 starts at first base, a position he last played in 2012 and last started in 2011

He was the first Dodger dating back to at least 1913 to play second, third and left field in the same game on May 4, then did it again on Sept. 18. On May 20, Kendrick became the only Dodger in at least 103 years to play second, first and left in the same game.

Along with his 32 games at second base, Kendrick is the only Dodger ever with 10 or more games at first base, second base, third base and left field in the same season.

Kendrick led the Dodgers in defensive games and innings in left field, and felt more comfortable there than at second base by the end of the year. The defensive metrics varied on Kendrick in left field, with Ultimate Zone Rating (+2.4 runs) seeing him as above average, Defensive Runs Saved (0) as average, and Total Zone Rating (-1) as below average.

Kendrick led the Dodgers with five 4-hit games, tied for fourth-most in the majors.

From May to August, Kendrick hit .286/.358/.431 with 23 doubles in 100 games.

He led the Dodgers with 10 stolen bases, in 12 attempts.

Kendrick in 2016 had a career-best 50 walks and 9.21% walk rate, almost double the walk rate (4.84%) of his first 10 seasons.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins
Howie Kendrick set a career high in walks and walk rate in 2016.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What went wrong

After seeing most of his spring training cut short with minor injuries to his right groin and left calf, Kendrick spent the first week of the season on the disabled list. But the recovery took much longer, as through May 1 he was 8-for-56 (.143) with no extra-base hits and no RBI in his first 19 games.

Kendrick also ended the season on a low note, hitting .190/.277/.226 in 28 games in September/October. He started the season’s final month with a 4-for-5 game on Sept. 2, then went 12-for-79 (.152) the rest of the way.

The result was a seasonal line of just .255/.326/.366, setting career lows in batting average (first time below .279), slugging percentage, OPS (.691), wOBA (.303). His OPS+ (90) and wRC+(91) were Kendrick’s worst since his rookie season of 2006.

In the postseason, Kendrick was 5-for-22 (.227) with a pair of doubles, and was relegated to platoon duty, starting only the three games against left-handed pitchers. Though Kendrick did still play in six of the eight games he didn’t start in the playoffs.

2016 particulars

Age: 32

Stats: .255/.326/.366, 26 doubles, 0.5 rWAR, 0.9 fWAR

Salary: $10 million, of which $5 million is deferred until Dec. 15, 2018.

Game of the year

Kendrick hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, then doubled an scored the winning run in the 17th inning in a 9-5 win over the Padres on May 22 in San Diego, the Dodgers’ longest game of the season.

That was one of Kendrick’s five 4-hit games — he was 4-for-8 with the home run and two doubles in the win.

Roster status

Kendrick has one season and $10 million remaining on his two-year contract, and will be a free agent after 2017. Half of his salary next season is deferred until Dec. 15, 2019.