Cross-posted at Athletics Nation...
I have to admit that for me, there was some anxiety around Jason Kendall smacking a home run earlier this season. That's not what we really what we expected, for in our mind, he fulfilled the role of "slap hitter with no home runs and many GIDPs", just as the Red Sox once filled the role of "the team who gets to the playoffs only to lose in heart-breaking fashion". As a baseball fan for nearly all my life, once you button-hole a player or a team in a spot, you expect them to stay there, and when they break the mold, you have to check your bearings and make sure all the other things you held true have not changed. But Jason has surprised a lot of us here beyond his solitary dinger, which still looks like a fluke.
As OaklandAthletics.com points out today, nobody has been swinging hotter lumber in these last few weeks than our gritty catcher.
In fact, in yesterday's win against the Rangers, Kendall had three hits, and both drove in and scored a run. And as the leadoff hitter, Kendall has done, all season, what you want a leadoff hitter to do - take pitches, get on base, and threaten to steal. In the leadoff position this year, Kendall is batting .304. But there's more!
Did you know...
* Kendall is batting .329 with runners on base in 2006?
* Kendall is batting .343 on the road in 2006?
* Kendall is fifth in the American league in BB/K at 1.03?
* Kendall is tied for the A's lead in steals?
* Kendall has more doubles (19) than Chavez (18) or Swisher (17)?
And if you somehow got the impression that Kendall hits a lot of ground balls, you wouldn't be alone in that thought. In fact, Kendall is also fifth in the American League in ground ball vs. fly balls, at 2.05. Lest you think that's a statistic for a slap hitter, other leading batters in this stat include Derek Jeter (#1), Pudge Rodriguez (#4), and Miguel Tejada (#6). That's right, Jason Kendall is ahead of Tejada in a number of batting categories!
I'm not saying I think the A's would be world-beaters if they featured Kendall in spots 1-9 in the batting order, but I don't cringe as often as I used to when he comes up to the plate with a mouthful of chaw, his helmet slumped low on his eyes, and choking up on the bat, because in 2006, Kendall has been a major part of why the A's have forged their Western Division lead, and why after the All-Star break, the team has been practically unstoppable. We hope that this version of Jason Kendall is the one we get to keep.
Listening to ''Enervate (Original Mix)'', by Paul Oakenfold (Play Count: 6)