Steve Bisheff on the Angels' logjam at second base:
- The hottest hitter on the team is about to make things very hot for his manager in the coming weeks.
At a time when the rest of the Angels' offense has been struggling, Howie Kendrick has been warmer than the September weather back home. After his homer, triple, single, five-RBI afternoon in Texas on Sunday, he's now hitting .489 in his last 15 games.
And since his brief trip to the minors, he has hit for an average that is approaching .400, impressively moving up from .230-something early in the year to its current .302.
So what is he about to get for proving yet again he is the purest hitter on the roster? Probably a seat on the bench for all playoff games against right-handed pitching.
That's right, Mike Scioscia, who is nothing if not stubborn and loyal, has gone all season platooning Maicer Izturis and Kendrick at second base, and he's not about to stop now.
For the record: A few weeks ago when the Angels featured an all-.300-hitting lineup -- remember? -- I gave short shrift to the possibility of Kendrick eventually joining that list. At the time, he was hitting just .275.
I was wrong. I wrote then, "To reach .300, he'd have to hit something like .400 the rest of the way." Well, since then he's batted .422 in 18 games. And he's passed .300.
I used to think that Kendrick would someday win a batting title. He's a .360 lifetime hitter in the minors, after all. But he essentially refuses to take a walk, and it's really hard to win a batting title that way. Especially if you're a right-handed hitter like Kendrick.
He is, on the other hand, a legitimate .300 hitter. Is he a better hitter than Maicer Izturis? Well, sure. But not so much against right-handed pitchers (Izturis is a switch-hitter who's done slightly better against righties than lefties in his career). Defensively, they're both solid.
Scioscia's simply in an odd position, with three middle infielders -- Kendrick, Izturis, and Erick Aybar -- who are good enough to play every day for most teams (and we're not even counting Brandon Wood). In the absence of a trade (which should probably happen this winter), Scioscia's playing the best defensive shortstop (Aybar) almost every day and platooning the other two at second base. Batting averages and hot streaks aside, it seems to me a highly defensible tactic.