Sep 24, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) hits a run scoring single in the fifth inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Analyzing the Detroit Tigers Lineup with Ian Kinsler (and Without Prince Fielder)

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The Detroit Tigers got a useful player in Ian Kinsler while unloading the complete long-term devastation of the Prince Fielder contract, but they now seemingly have a big hole to fill in their lineup. Fielder had a bad year by his standards in 2013 — his OPS was ‘only’ .819 — but Kinsler isn’t likely to even reproduce those numbers at the plate this season (though it’s possible). Last year the Tigers scored 796 runs (4.91), second most in baseball, but where does their offense stand now?

Let’s first assume that Brad Ausmus doesn’t drastically alter the construction of the lineup. If he doesn’t, we might be looking at (2014 Steamer Projection in parenthesis):

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (.275/.347/.423)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (.262/.337/.426)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (.277/.329/.428)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.325/.416/.588)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (.293/.354/.445)
  6. Alex Avila, C (.246/.345/.412)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (.265/.313/.401)
  8. Andy Dirks, LF (.266/.326/.407)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (.257/.303/.341)

 

This is quite probably not the lineup Ausmus will roll out on opening day, but let’s roll with it for a moment. This obviously makes some assumptions about who will play and where they’ll be playing (though it’s only a modest offensive projection for Castellanos).

Anyway, Baseball Musing’s Lineup Analysis Tool projects the above lineup (based on the projected rate stats) to score 5.06 runs per game (819 runs over 162 games). That’s more than the actual Tigers scored last year, but, of course, you can’t really play all your starters every day. An optimized lineup, according to the tool, of Jackson, Cabrera, Kinsler, Hunter, Martinez, Castellanos, Dirks, Iglesias, Avila would be projected to score 5.106 runs per game (7.5 runs more over a full season).

We might not be looking at an 800-run lineup by the time guys like Bryan Holaday and Don Kelly get starts, but we’re still looking at a dang good offense. One of the best in baseball, in all likelihood.

But how would that compare to a lineup that still contained Prince Fielder?

First let’s assume the Tigers also re-signed Omar Infante to play second base:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (.275/.347/.423)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (.277/.329/.428)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.325/.416/.588)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (.286/.387/.498)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (.293/.354/.445)
  6. Alex Avila, C (.246/.345/.412)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (.288/.325/.407)
  8. Andy Dirks, LF (.266/.326/.407)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (.257/.303/.341)

 

This lineup would be projected to score 5.222 runs per game with optimized versions being worth up to 5.338 runs per game. Depending on which lineups would/would have been used, we’re talking maybe a 25-run (2.5 win) difference. Of course, the lineup with Prince Fielder and Omar Infante would cost about $20 million more for 2014, so you’d be paying for every bit of that difference.

What if retaining Fielder mean’t they couldn’t/wouldn’t upgrade the second base position? What if that mean’t either Danny Worth or Hernan Perez were the everyday guy there (they basically have the same Steamer projection). Here’s that lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (.275/.347/.423)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (.277/.329/.428)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (.325/.416/.588)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (.286/.387/.498)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (.293/.354/.445)
  6. Alex Avila, C (.246/.345/.412)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF (.266/.326/.407)
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS (.257/.303/.341)
  9. Hernan Perez, 2B (.250/.280/.336)

 

This lineup is more or less the same as the Kinsler lineup, at 5.08 runs per game. It’s actually three runs better over 162 games, but that would be only one or two runs in actuality (subs and stuff). Optimized versions could be worth up to 5.2 runs per game, but depending on how the individual combinations would be deployed, we’re almost certainly talking in the zero-to-one win range. So the Tigers are saving $8 million in 2014, losing the long-term commitment, and only losing probably only 10 runs or so in offense (to say nothing of the potential for defensive upgrades). You should be able to buy back those lost runs with the excess money (and probably have some left over).

The Tigers offense isn’t as potent now as it was two weeks ago, but it’s probably not all that much worse considering they probably also freed themselves up to spend a little more as well. Looking at things this way, it’s hard not to see the trade as a win.

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Tags: Detroit Tigers Ian Kinsler Prince Fielder

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