Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 22. Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall was a 6’ catcher from San Diego, CA. Born on June 26, 1974, the right hander was originally selected by the Pirates in the first round of the 1992 amateur draft, 23rd overall. He made his first professional appearance with the Gulf Coast “Rookie” League’s Pirates later that season, hitting .261 in 33 games. He graduated to the “A” level Southern Atlantic League in 1993, hitting .276 with 40 RBI in 102 contests for the Augusta Pirates.

1994 would see Kendall spend most of his season with the “A+” level Salem Buccaneers of the Carolina League, with 66 RBI and a .318 average in 101 games. He also hit .234 in a 13 game callup to the “AA” Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League late in the season. He stayed with the Mudcats in 1995, hitting .326 with 87 runs, 26 doubles, 71 RBI and 56 walks to only 22 strikeouts. His performance was noticed, and allowed him to skip the “AAA” level the following season.

On opening day, 1996, Kendall was Pittsburgh’s starting catcher, batting eighth in the order (where he would appear for the bulk of the season). He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI in a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins. Overall, he played in 130 contests, hitting .300 with 54 runs, 23 doubles, 42 RBI, and 35 walks to only 30 strikeouts. He made the all-star team, and finished the season third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He ranked fourth in the NL with 15 hit by pitches. Defensively, he had 797 putouts (NL fourth), 71 assists (NL fourth), 10 double plays turned (NL third) while leading the league with 41 would-be base stealers getting thrown out. By wins probability added, his best game of the year was on August 22nd, when he went 3-for-3 with a walk, a double, a run and an RBI in an 8-6 win over the Houston Astros. The Pirates finished last in the NL Central Division, at 73-89.

In 1997, Kendall hit .294 in 144 contests with 71 runs scored 49 walks, 36 doubles, 49 RBI, and 18 stolen bases with 53 strikeouts in 572 plate appearances (ranking seventh in the NL with 9.2 AB/K). He also continued to display a skill in taking pitches, ranking second in the NL with 31 HBP. He also continued to shine defensively, with 952 putouts (NL second), 103 assists (NL first), 20 double plays turned (NL first, and 56 runners caught stealing (NL first). The Pirates preferred him in the sixth batting spot, although they also used him in the three, five, seven, and eight slots. On May 31st, he collected a double, a triple, and a home run, falling just a single short of the cycle in a 4-2 setback to the Montreal Expos. Despite their 79-83 record, the Pirates finished second in the NL Central, five games behind the Astros.

1998 would see Kendall honored with his second all-star selection. He hit .327 (NL fifth) with 95 runs, 51 walks, 36 doubles, 12 home runs, 75 RBI, and 26 stolen bases (NL eighth with only five unsuccessful attempts, ranking seventh with a 83.9 percent success rate). He struck out 51 times in 627 plate appearances (NL sixth with 10.5 AB/K), leading the NL with 31 HBP and ranking seventh with a .411 OBP. He again shone defensively, ranking first with 1015 putouts, along with 58 assists (NL fifth), 10 double plays turned (NL fourth), and 32 runners caught stealing (NL fourth). The Pirates batted him either second or third all season. On April 8th, he hit a single, a double, and a round tripper, scoring two and knocking in two more in a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Pittsburgh finished the season in the NL Central’s cellar, at 69-93.

In 1999, Kendall was limited to only 78 games due to an injury. He tabbed career bests with a .332/.428/.511/.939 line, scoring 61 runs with 20 doubles, eight home runs, 22 stolen bases (and three times caught stealing for an NL fifth best 88 percent success rate), and 38 walks with 32 strikeouts in 334 PA’s. Despite his limited playing time, he still ranked fourth in the NL with 12 times HBP, somehow managing to lead the league with 13 double plays turned. Opposing runners were thrown out on 30-of-69 stolen base attempts, allowing Kendall to rank third in the NL with a 43.5 percent kill rate. On May 3rd, he hit three singles and two doubles in a 9-8 win over the San Francisco Giants for his first career five-hit game. He provided most of the lumber in a 6-5 win over the Astros on May 23rd, with a three-run double and a run scoring sacrifice fly, for a total of four RBI. The Pirates led the back of the pack, finishing third in the six-team NL Central at 78-83 as the Astros and Cincinnati Reds each won 96 or more games.

In 2000, Kendall played in his third career all-star game. He hit .320 with career highs 112 runs scored (NL ninth), 79 walks drawn, 33 doubles, six triples and 14 home runs. He finished with 185 total hits (NL 10th), 132 singles (NL fourth), knocked in 58 runs and stole 22 bases. He was hit by 15 pitches (NL fifth) and got on base 279 times (NL eighth). He continued to pace the NL defensively behind the plate, with 990 putouts and 81 assists, ranking fourth with 12 double plays turned and third with 38 runners caught stealing. The Pirates used him liberally across the top three spots in the batting order. On May 19th, he hit for the cycle, scoring three times and knocking in five in a 13-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates managed to avoid finishing dead last in the NL Central, four game ahead of the Chicago Cubs at 69-93.

In 2001, Kendall played a career high 157 games while playing mostly catcher, with occasional starts in left and right field. He hit.266 with 84 runs scored, 127 singles (NL fourth), 22 doubles, 10 home runs, 53 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He ranked third in the league with 20 HBP, and seventh with 12.6 K/AB. The Pirates used him at one, two, three, and five in the lineup. On April 22nd, he came to the plate in the bottom of the tenth, down to the Cubs 3-2 with one on and one out (he was already 1-for-2 for the game), ending it with a walk-off, two-run homer. This effort was brave but futile, as the Pirates drifted to a 62-100 last place finish.

2002 would see Kendall hit .283 over 143 contests with 123 singles (NL ninth), 25 doubles, 44 RBI, 15 stolen bases and only 29 strikeouts in 605 PA (for an NL leading 18.8 AB/K rate). He also drew 49 walks. Defensively, he had 797 putouts (NL fifth), 64 assists (NL third), 13 double plays turned (NL first), and 39 runners caught stealing (NL second). On April 21st in the top half of a twinbill, he hit a single and a triple, knocking in four and scoring a fifth in a 9-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates finished the season in fourth place, at 72-89.

In 2003, Kendall rebounded to hit .325 (NL sixth) in 150 games, with 84 runs scored, 191 hits (NL sixth), 153 singles (NL third), 29 doubles, 58 RBI, 25 HBP (NL second), and 49 walks. He struck out 40 times in 666 PA for an AB/K of 14.7 (NL second) batting first, second, third, and sixth in the lineup (never in the same game). He had 55 multi-hit games, including 18 games of three or more. On April 19th, he went 4-for-4 with two doubles and scored the Pirates only run in a 6-1 loss to the Cubs. In game two of a doubleheader on June 18th, he pinch hit for pitcher Salomon Torres with one out and two on in the bottom of the ninth, down to the Expos, 3-2. He won the game with one swing, hitting a two-run double into left-center field for the walk-off victory. The Pirates finished fourth in the NL Central, at 75-87.

2004 would mark Kendall’s last season with the Bucs. He hit .319 (NL eighth) with 60 walks and 19 HBP (NL third), helping him to a .399 OBP (NL ninth). He scored 86 times, collected 183 hits (NL 10th), 148 singles (NL second), 32 doubles, 51 RBI, and struck out 41 times in 658 PA over 147 games (14.0 AB/K, NL fourth). He also had 998 putouts (NL second), 78 assists (NL first), 13 double plays turned (NL second), 37 runners caught stealing (NL first), and a 36.3 CS rate (NL fourth). He batted mostly leadoff, with occasional starts at second and third in the order. On May 29th, he went 4-for-5 with a walk and two doubles in a 10-7 win over the Cubs. Pittsburgh’s season ending 72-89 record was only good enough for them to avoid last in the division, five games in front of the Milwaukee Brewers. After the season, the Pirates sent him (with cash) to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Mark Redman (5-15, 4.90 with the Bucs), pitcher Arthur Rhodes and cash (?). Rhodes was immediately traded to the Cleveland Indians for right fielder Matt Lawton (101 games, .273, 10 home runs, 44 RBI with Pittsburgh).

Kendall played with the A’s for two and a half seasons (373 games, .271, 125 RBI). He later made stops with the Chicago Cubs (57 games, .270), the Brewers (285 games, .244, 92 RBI), and the Kansas City Royals (118 games, .256, 37 RBI). He played his last game in August, 2010, officially announcing his retirement on July 24, 2012.

All-Time Statline: Nine seasons, 1252 games, 1409-for-4606, .306/.387/.418, 706 runs, 256 doubles, 29 triples, 67 home runs, 471 RBI, 140 stolen bases, 454 walks, 403 strikeouts, 28.9 wins above replacement.

Next up: another “Deacon” pitcher.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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