“He should be the starting third baseman for the National League this year. Definitely,” Bryce Harper said. “Nothing against Nolan Arenado or anybody else that’s there, but that guy has had an unbelievable first half. He’s kept us in ballgames, had innings to win ballgames, played a great third base and just done everything all around for us. I know he’s excited to go back to Houston and get some rest of course, but he should be down in Florida with us.”
None of the National League third basemen named to the all-star team can match Rendon’s overall production. He finished the first half with a .960 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, .304 batting average and .401 on-base percentage, best among National League third baseman. His 16 home runs are fourth among National League third basemen, and his 54 RBI rank second. Arenado and Jake Lamb, the two third basemen originally named to the All-Star Game, play their home games in the best and second-best offensive parks in the National League, Colorado’s Coors Field and Arizona’s Chase Field. Rendon plays in the 18th-most offensive-friendly stadium. The other third baseman on the NL squad, final-vote winner Justin Turner, has played in 65 games this year. Rendon has reached base in as many games this year.
But Rendon’s value to the Nationals — who have plenty of offensive firepower around him — goes beyond what can be found on a leader board. After his two-RBI day Sunday, Rendon was hitting .306 with a .946 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position.
“Anthony is our foundation man. He’s a clutch man. You need a base hit to right, you need a homer, you need an RBI, whatever that you need, Anthony is usually the guy that comes through,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “Especially hitting behind [Daniel Murphy], he’s very, very important, because they don’t walk Murph to get to Anthony. Just shows the amount of respect that he has throughout the league.”
Baker values Rendon as protection for the middle of his order, which is why he left him in the sixth spot when No. 2 hitter Jayson Werth went down with injury. But sports talk hosts and stat heads tear their hair out at the idea — the best hitters should hit higher in the order to get more at-bats, they argue.
Rendon does fit the two-spot well. In addition to his production, Rendon provides top-of-the-order-type at-bats. He is second in the National League in pitches seen per plate appearance (4.46). He has done everything well at the plate this season, so far the best of his career. He also ranks among the league’s best defensively, according to the advanced metrics.
Even so, Rendon will be heading home for the week, not to Miami — something he probably won’t mind at all, though his teammates do.
“It’s definitely a bummer,” Harper said, “but he’ll get his chance.”