Let's hear it for Howie

First Minor League Baseball and now the AFL have been abuzz this year because of Brandon Wood’s remarkable season.  Well, Wood just endured one of his longest homerless streaks of the season, six games (He hit his 10th HR of the AFL season on Monday).

In the meantime, his double play partner from Rancho Cucamonga, Howie Kendrick, keeps on hitting and hitting and hitting. … well, you get the idea.  With a ton of attention on Brandon, we’ve decided to provide some perspective on Howie’s season — and not just because he’s penning an exclusive AFL journal for MiLB.com — by looking a little deeper into the numbers he compiled this year.

Combining his totals from Rancho, Double-A Arkansas  and Surprise in the AFL, Kendrick is hitting .374 with 199 hits in 123 games. That’s an average of 1.62 hits per game. Just how impressive is that? It happens to be one-hundreth of a point shy of Ichiro’s hit rate when he broke the MLB record for hits in a season last year. 

Kendrick began the AFL season with eight straight multi-hit games and has recorded more than one hit in 10 of the 13 contests he’s started.  Perusing the stats from his regular season, you’d see that Kendrick had 35 multi-hit games in 63 starts for Rancho and 22 multi-hit games in 46 starts for Arkansas.  That’s a grand total of 67 multi-hit games in those 122 starts.

By comparison, in his record-setting season, Ichiro tallied more than one hit in 80 of 162 contests. Project Kendrick’s total over a full Major League season and that’s 88 multi-hit games…88 folks! Unreal.

Think Howie’s just a garbage-time hits compiler.  Think again. He hit .371 (56-151) over the three levels with runners in scoring position. Think the right-handed second baseman only hits lefites?  Think again. Howie has managed to hit righties at a .384 (158-411), while lefties held him to a .339 average (41-121). A true model of consistency, Kendrick never went more than three consecutive games without a hit and that streak occurred during his first two weeks at Double-A.

With his Double-A average sitting at .283, Kendrick decided it was time to silence the doubters as he then ripped off a 20-game hitting streak for the Travs. During the streak, he hit .404 (34-84) and, of course, had 13 multi-hit games. Only a singles hitter?  No shot. Kendrick tallied a total of 77 extra-base hits.

About halfway through the AFL season, Kendrick has continued his torrid pace. He ranks second to Brendan Harris among the AFL batting leaders as Kendrick has 27 hits in 14 games. That puts him on pace for 59 hits. The AFL single season record of 68 hits was set by Steve Pegues in the League’s inaugural season of 1992.  This year’s AFL season is shortened because of the pre-Olympic qualifer so Mr. Pegues is probably safe for another year.

Here’s how Kendrick’s exploits have helped impact the league-wide numbers (as of Monday):

All-time batting average record: .292 (2004)
2005 average: .303

All-time worst ERA: 5.32 (2004)
2005 ERA: 5.80

All-time homers: 243 (1997)
2005 homers: 102 (on pace for 213)

Note on homers: The record for homers per game is 1.82, set in 2001. This year, balls are going out at the rate of 2.22 per game.

All-time runs per game: 12.07 (2004)
2005 RPG: 12.8

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