July 26, 2012
In A Pickle
The Story Of Jason Kendall's Conception
Jason Kendall appears to be retiring for good, which makes it eulogy time. My personal recollection of Kendall from his time in Oakland is of a guy who suddenly forgot how to throw, who had the kind of power that caused pitchers to giggle happily as they motioned their outfielders “in, in, in,” who grounded into altogether too many double plays, … and who was, at the end of the year, an above-average player because he kept his backup off the field and got on base a reasonable number of times for his position and park. There is much more to be said, though, because Kendall didn’t reach the A’s until 30 years after his birth (on which more later), his best seasons having already passed.
Let’s ignore for the moment the question of whether Kendall will make his way into the Hall of Fame come 2020 or so. He might be good enough to get there on the objective merits, having racked up as much career value with his bat and legs and durability as almost any of his contemporaries at his position:
One squints and twists one’s neck into awkward positions while examining catcher defensive metrics, but it’s worth noting that Kendall’s defensive reputation is much stronger than that of the two men behind him in the above list. Of course, that doesn’t really help him move up the table because Pudge_2 had a lethal cannon and Piazza is probably too far out in front on the strength of his bat to be caught, even as we are learning that the spread of runs saved by catcher gloves (particularly in pitch-framing, but also in ball-blocking) is larger than we might have imagined. On the other hand, Mike Piazza’s noodle arm may have led us to underestimate his overall defensive skill and Jason Kendall, despite being super-gritty, may not actually have been that good at the whole defense thing.
But feh, this is why I didn’t want to get into a discussion of Kendall’s actual candidacy. There are a lot of unknowns and open questions and philosophical difficulties to untangle, and I’m not really in the mood to care about that. I’m on vacation, actually. I just want to think about happy things.
Here are some happy things: