Washington Nationals: Howie Kendrick and the test of time

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 30: Howie Kendrick #47 of the Washington Nationals celebrates his two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 30: Howie Kendrick #47 of the Washington Nationals celebrates his two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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As Father Time begins to creep up on Howie Kendrick can he respond with the same productivity he did a year ago in the Washington Nationals championship run?

By all means, Howie Kendrick is the postseason hero for the Washington Nationals. Stephen Strasburg was the World Series MVP, and rightly so, but the Nationals may not have been playing in that Series without Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, Kendrick hit .333 with an OPS over 1.000, en route to winning that series’ MVP. His bat quieted a little in the World Series, though no hit was bigger than his go-ahead, two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning in Game 7.

On the free-agent market Kendrick received plenty of calls and a couple reported multi-year contract offers. In the end, he chose to return to the Nationals on a one year, $6.25 million deal.

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In the business of baseball, there are no six-million-dollar nostalgia signings. Kendrick will have to produce or both he and the Nationals will face a lot of criticism for this reunion.

Entering the 2019 season Kendrick was returning from a torn Achilles tendon which wiped clean the final four and a half months of his 2018 season. At 35 years-old the expectations were this utility man would provide spot starts and pinch-hit appearances.

Given the opportunity to play though, Kendrick hit, and hit, and hit some more. Starting at first base for the injured Ryan Zimmerman and stealing playing time from backup Matt Adams, Kendrick hit .344 with an OPS of .966.

The 2020 season holds the same expectations for Kendrick as far as playing time, though can he stay healthy while providing quality at-bats for the defending champs? With the additions of Eric Thames, Starlin Castro, and suspected increased playing time for Carter Kieboom, Kendrick again will be looked on as a spot starter/pinch hitter. This lifetime .294 hitter may be hard to keep out of the lineup if he produces like he has in the past.

There is no reason to believe Howie Kendrick will slow down. Riding the high of his postseason heroics from the year before look for Kendrick to string together enough quality at-bats that he is regularly platooning at first base or second base.

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Bringing back this clubhouse and fan favorite was as easy decision for the Washington Nationals. They will be rewarded when he helps take them back to the playoffs as the Nats hope to make another run to the World Series.