After a slow start to the 2016 campaign, which saw Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon put up a .218/.293/.308 line with six doubles and two home runs over the first 33 games and 147 plate appearances, Washington’s 2011 1st-round pick turned it on.
Over the 123 games and 500 PAs that followed, Rendon put up a .286/.364/.493 line, with 32 doubles and 18 HRs after May 10th. He finished the season at 4.7 fWAR.
Dusty Baker told reporters late this season, that on offense and defense, it’s all about Rendon’s hands.
“His hands are unbelievable,” Baker said.
“He has some of the quickest hands offensively and defensively. That’s what impressed me in Spring Training, the first time I ever saw him.
“And actually he’s the guy that I told my son to watch, because my son is skinny, much like I was, but he has big hands again like my dad and me, and I said, ‘Hey, man, that’s your best friend right there, your hands.’ And you watch Anthony Rendon and how he uses his hands.
“Earlier in the year, his hands were — I think they were a little banged up, and he was using more arms than hands and now he’s using his hands. And boy, when he’s on time, the ball — he does it so effortlessly, and I enjoy watching him hit.”
Rendon dealt with an MCL sprain and oblique issue and never got fully comfortable at the plate in 2015, finishing the year with a .264/.344/.363 line, 16 doubles and five HRs in 80 games and 355 PAs in a 0.9 fWAR campaign.
Part of his ability to turn things around, Rendon explained early in the postseason, was the environment Baker created in his first season on the bench in D.C.
“I think it's just a more relaxed environment,” Rendon said. “He doesn't put too much pressure on us, if any at all, because I feel like he knows what we're going through.
“He's just been a great life for this team and this year, so it's been fun to play with him and behind him.”
During the Nationals’ run in the NLDS, Rendon said being healthy all season helped too.
“I guess I felt all right throughout the whole year. I got off to a little bit of a slow start. But it's how we finish, it's not how you start, so we'll try to finish strong.”
As for what exactly helped him turn things around after the slow start to the season, Rendon said, “I'm not sure.”
“I guess if I knew the answer to that, it wouldn't have just been the last 80 or 90 games. It would have been the whole 162.
“I think just trying to stay within myself, trying not to do too much, and just trying to put the barrel on the ball like I've been taught ever since I was younger. I guess just staying within myself.”
The NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t go all that well for Rendon, however.
He finished the series 3 for 20 (.150/.190/.300) with a home run, a walk and six Ks in 21 PAs, over which he left 22 men on base.