So Jason Kendall has been playing the last month and a half with a shredded rotator cuff.  Didn’t notice.

It’s not like his power disappeared.  He didn’t have power to start.  It’s not like he stopped hitting line drives.  He wasn’t doing that before.

So he’s off to have surgery and the normal recovery time is 8 to 10 months.  Except Kendall is super human.  From Ned Yost:

“We hope to have him back by the spring… And have him ready for Opening Day.”

Uh… Are we on the Mayan calendar?  Because by my calendar, spring training opens in  five and a half months.  The 2011 season starts in seven months.  Recovery is 8 to 10 months, right?

Kendall is 36 years old.  He’s caught a ton of games in his career.  He is having major surgery to repair his shoulder.  There’s something to be said for optimism, but in Kendall’s case perhaps we should err on the side of a longer recovery.  The flip side is Kendall is the toughest ballplayer ever whose tolerance for pain is off the charts.

Witness…

“It shows you the mentality and mental makeup of Jason Kendall.  He would have played the rest of the year if the training staff hadn’t hog tied him and made him have an MRI.”

This “gamer” mentality can be nice.  It can also be insane.

Kendall isn’t a good player under the best of circumstances.  There’s no way he should be starting half the games for the Royals, even when he’s at 100%, health-wise.  Still, his last 33 games (since suffering the injury) have been abysmal – even by our low standards.  Since July 18, Kendall has come to the plate 141 times and posted a line of .224/.281/.248 with just three extra base hits.  (All doubles… But you already knew that.)

When you have a player who is below average to start, who then suffers an injury that hampers his performance to the extent he becomes worse…  Yet continues to play…  That’s not being a “gamer.”  That’s being selfish.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Kendall caught his 2,000 career game after his injury.  It’s not a stretch to arrive at the conclusion that he hid his injury so he could become the fifth catcher in history to mark this milestone.  Players tend to hang on for these kind of “achievements,” you know.

(Quick aside: I imagine it would be extremely difficult to spend your entire life playing baseball, being so close to a milestone such as this and walking away.  Human nature.  As much as I’d like to blame Kendall for sticking around too long, there’s always an enabler in a situation like this.  GMDM bears much of the blame for signing Kendall and putting his team in a situation that is detrimental to their performance.  Plus, two years?  Thud.   Yost, too for playing him every single day.)

Fun Kendall fact:  The opposition attempted 142 steals against him this year.  The second place catcher has had 104 attempted steals against this year.  Part of that is due to the fact Kendall apparently is the only catcher on the Royals roster.  And part of that is due to the fact teams believe they can run on Kendall.  What surprises me is that Kendall has a 29% success rate.  That’s pretty good, actually.  It’s a little better than league average.  And it’s exactly the same as John Buck – who if you remember allegedly has a weak throwing arm.

You know how Yost likes to go on about how Kendall does the “little things” on offense?  Little things meaning situational hitting?  Chew on this:  Jason Kendall has 490 plate appearances this year for the Royals.  He’s come up with a total of 298 runners on base.  The average major leaguer with 490 plate appearances has come up with 304 runners on this year.  (Stick with me… The Royals team OBP is .329 this year – mostly due to their inflated batting average.  That’s eighth in the AL.  And exactly league average.)

So Kendall has hit with roughly the league average of base runners on ahead of him.  Now for the “little things.”  In this situation the average major leaguer has driven in 54 of those runners.  That’s 17.8%.  Kendall has brought home only 37 of those runners.  That’s 12.4%.  The difference between the two rates is significant.

Although – and I imagine this is what excites Yost – Kendall has driven home 16 of the 22 runners when he has hit with a runner on third and less than two outs.  Remember how Mike Jacobs was hopeless last year in that situation?  He scored just nine of 32 runners from third with less than two outs for the Royals in 2009.  That was a 28% success rate.  Kendall is at 72% for 2010.  It’s nice.  And it’s a huge difference.  But for some reason, I always think the Royals tend to fixate on things like this and lose sight of the big picture. They plug one leak, and then are oblivious to the other five leaks that suddenly spring from their “fix.”

Certainly the “little things” isn’t just about bringing home runners.  It’s about moving those runners, too.  Kendall has seven sac flies – second most on the team. (OK, that’s about bringing runners home.) He also has six sacrifice bunts – again, second most on the team.  Yost loves the “little things.”

So now what?  According to Yost, “We get to see Brayan Pena.”

Six words.  Yet, I’m so annoyed.  Hey, Yost!  You had the last three and a half months to “see” Pena.  He’s that guy who’s picking splinters out of his butt because all he does is sit on the bench.

I don’t want to celebrate an injury, but this is a good thing for the Royals because it forces the team to evaluate their in house catching options.  Pena will get some reps, as will Lucas May in the season’s final month.  They will probably get the first look next year, as the Royals don’t really have the budget to find another catcher in free agency.  I think the Royals hands are kind of tied in this situation where they have to play Pena and May.  This is time they would not have received if Kendall was available.

May projects to be a platoon candidate.  He hit .379/.406/.828 against lefties while playing for Omaha and has a career line of of .292/.347/.535 versus the southpaws.  Meanwhile he posted a line of .226/.342/.371 this year in Omaha and has a career line of .249/.311/.409 against right-handers.  It’s a good platoon situation for the Royals as Pena – although he’s a switch hitter – bats better against right-handed pitching.

If Yost figures this out, the catcher position just got better.