on Jason Kendall


(I wrote this yesterday, but forget to hit the publish button. I’m beginning to hate that button.)

What the A’s fans are saying about “losing” Jason Kendall

Jason, I never hated you, how could I hate someone who would put his face in front of some jagged cleats to win a game? I just got tired of watching you hit.

Blez @ athleticsnation

In my wildest dreams, I had a hard time visualizing a situation where the A’s would get something for Jason Kendall.

Melissa Lockard @ Athletic Supporters

Will miss Kendall’s grit and pitcher handling, though his hitting is no longer at a major-league level.

SF Gate’s A’s blog.

I can’t see a downside to this deal

– Len Kasper @ WCIU last night (perhaps somewhat paraphrased – but this killed me because Len’s normally so smart, and he and Brenly were marking out for this deal. What was worse was when they were quoting statistics to prop up the deal, obviously having seen the bad offensive numbers and choosing to ignore it. I know you’re employed by the home team and are going to be biased, but c’mon. That was credibility damaging.)

The coverage of this deal, from a Cubs perspective, has been mindboggling to me. Perhaps I was a slight bit biased, having immediately called a friend after hearing about the deal, and screaming “226!“, which left me little tolerance for differing opinions (as seen on the-w.) You can read the A’s perspective above – to them, this is a great move, getting rid of a player they were sick of watching to open up a door for a player they wanted to see and – bonus! – they got a couple free players and some salary relief out of it.

Look, I think this was a horrible deal. I think the Cubs would’ve been better of making no move than this move. Much like Cesar Izituris, I think the Cubs have traded for a player who’s having a bad time of it and may well be done as a major league regular, but they’re hoping they can fix him (/spread some magical pixie dust) and all of his problems will be gone. It didn’t and hasn’t worked with Izituris, and the Cubs have spent a lot of outs to find that out. I’m very upset to see the same process repeat itself again. I think Rob Bowen had proven to be a bad move (and a bad trade, Z’s hot streak or not) and Koyie Hill is the wrong direction, but Jason Kendall is probably just going to be another mistake and more time wasted going the wrong way instead of trying more promising directions.

The original thought, when this happened, is Pinella had campaigned for a better catcher after tiring of Hill and Bowen’s inability to hit. That may or may be solved by picking up Kendall, but it’s not actually what happened. When you start to read the A’s side coverage, it becomes pretty obvious this was an A’s idea to start with.

“When he told me about his plans for the young catcher they have, we tried to fall in as best we could and make the deal.”

– Jim Hendry, quoted in the San Fransico Chronicle, and a generous, generous man. Hendry’s also quoted hyping up the major league prospects of Jerry Blevin, who’s pretty much be ignored in this deal on the Chicago side. Hendry sounds like he belives this is a steal for his team, and he’s trying to make sure Beane doesn’t get killed by the A’s fans for helping him out. It’s a pretty warped perspective from reality.

Phil Rogers’ short article on the trade was one of the worst I’ve read. Using Jason Marquis, the guy who’s completely fallen apart over the last six weeks, as a proof of the Cubs scouting being smarter than statistical evidence shows either cluelessness or obliviousness. I’m also not sure how much scouting could’ve actually been done, if the Cubs were not looking for catchers (as the SFGate article states), this deal was proposed on Sunday, and Kendall didn’t play on Monday. I think this deal was done 99% based on Jason Kendall name recognition while ignoring all evidence that he – like a lot of catchers when they reach they get into their 30s with a ton of games caught – might be done.

The defense I’ve heared about Kendall’s woeful hitting stats – that’s 226 AVG, 261 OBP, 281 SLG – is that he’s hit better lately. If you accept that, you’ve got also accept how horrible Kendall must’ve been doing earlier for a hot streak to take him to 226.

April (95 PA): 169/221/180
May (85 PA): 213/247/225
June (97 PA): 295/326/432
June (35 PA): 229/229/286

So yes, he did get hot in June, and even show a little bit of power. That was June. It’s July, and he’s back to what he’s been the rest of the season. Do you want to believe the 1 month, or the 2.3 months?

I’m actually more distressed about those on base numbers. Jason Kendall strength, when he was someone you’d want to sign, was his ability to get on base at a leadoff man’s rate. Some of it was because he hit 300 7 seasons, but it was equally about his ability to take pitches and get on base via the walk. While your swing may slow down, an aging player should retain his ability to identify the strike zone and walk his way on base.

Look at those splits agian. Even in his hot month, Jason Kendall’s walks added no more 30 points to his OBP. He’s yet to walk in July. Last season, Kendall’s Isolated Walk was 70, which is where it’s been about for his career. That’s a lot of walks to go missing, and walks that have consistently been missing this year. There’s two explanations for that

* his eyesight is going, so he can’t identify balls anymore
* pitchers have figured out a reliable way get Kendall out, and don’t feel the need to waste any pitches out of the strike zone. Kendall’s not walking because the pitchers don’t fear him making contact.

If it’s the latter, I expect Kendall will get a brief surge, as he faces NL teams that are going off old scouting reports and don’t know how to challenge him. Word gets around fast, and I think the NL will figure out whatever the AL has, and what Kendall has been unable to correct.

I should note that signing Jason Kendall makes all the talk about Barrett being traded for his defense seem like complete bunk. Kendall’s known as a guy you can run at will on. Bowen and Hill seemed to be keeping people relatively honest, but no more.

SBA/G (2007)
Kendall .888 (with the As)
Hill .43
Bowen .59 (with the Cubs)

The big catch here, the big unknown, is how much everyone’s paying for Kendall’s salary. It was $13 million, $5 mil still paid by the Pirates. (What an awful deal for the Pirates.) Season’s 91 games over, and even though it doesn’t exactly work that way, we’ll say that means 56% of the salary has been paid so far.

Kendall’s got a rep as being a good game caller – but he’s also the 5th different catcher the Cubs have used this season. It’s tough to believe any pitcher has a particularly good connection with any catcher at this point.

$5.72mil left in the contract
$2.20mil left to be paid by the Pirates (assuming the Pirates pay over the year and not in a lump sum)

$3.5mil split by the Cubs and As. If the A’s are paying $3.25 mil of it, so the Cubs are basically paying Bowen’s salary for Jason Kendall, well, I guess you’re rolling the dice and hope that Kendall has a better shot to improve than Bowen.

I still rather the Cubs find out what they have in Soto first. If the Cubs internal scouting was correct, the Cubs would be out of it now – Theriot and Fontenot’s hot hitting would’ve never helped out the ball club because the scouting didn’t think they were worth anything. Maybe they’re right to about Soto, and he can’t be a Major League catcher, but wouldn’t you have a little doubt after the other guys you said couldn’t make it have been a valuable assets.

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