Apr 2, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) in the dugout before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Pop At The Top–Ian Kinsler Leads The Detroit Tigers


Last November the Detroit Tigers rocked the baseball world by sending an esteemed member of their royal family (a Prince, no less) to Texas.

The Rangers were looking for a power hitter for the middle of their line-up. After Prince Fielder‘s two consecutive dismal postseason performances, the Tigers were only too happy to find a taker for him and his super-sized salary. For their part, Texas sent second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit.

Though analysts hacked and whacked at the merits of the transaction all winter, it appears at first blush the Tigers, not the Rangers, received a royal return on the deal.

While Fielder has gotten off to a slow start in Texas (.252/.366/.367–3 HR’s), Tiger fans have had a chance to observe Kinsler’s play (.303/.337/.441–4 HR’s) on a daily basis during this young season.

He has not disappointed.

Kinsler fits the new Brad Ausmus regime perfectly.

While Fielder is dangerous only within the confines of the batter’s box, Kinsler can and will beat you in a variety of ways–with his glove, arm, legs and brain–as well as his bat.

Contrasted with the perceived personal detachment of Fielder from the game, Kinsler is an engaged competitor who relies on his natural instincts to exploit the shortcomings of an opponent.

More than any other player, Ian Kinsler personifies the new look Detroit Tigers, who are sleeker and more calculating than last year’s model. While he can hit for power, he also has a keen sense of the complexity of the game and the recurring opportunities for improvisation it presents on the field of play.

In short, he’s capable of pressuring defenses into mistakes, which dovetails nicely with the philosophy of his new manager.

Offense

Offensively, Kinsler hits at the top of the line-up as either the leadoff man or two-hole hitter.

His ability to leadoff (along with Rajai Davis) permitted Ausmus to move last year’s leadoff hitter, center fielder Austin Jackson, lower in the order. That arrangement has worked well, as Jackson was never comfortable leading off and has produced hitting in the fifth or sixth position (.276/.343/.423).

Kinsler also has extra base power, a luxury among second basemen. Among all American League second sackers with at least 100 at-bats, he is tied for second in home runs (4) and slugging % (.441).

He has also cemented his reputation as an opportunistic base runner, as he has already stolen five bases and taken the extra base on numerous occasions.

Defense

The three-time All Star has also distinguished himself in the field.

Kinsler has one error in 153 chances on the year (.993) and has demonstrated expansive range. His hands and footwork have been immaculate and are exactly what you would expect from a top-flight second baseman. Additionally, he’s particularly adept at turning double plays.

The Bottom Line

Dave Dombrowski’s decision to bring Ian Kinsler to Detroit was a bold stroke which brought a heady ball player to a team with a realistic chance to win a world championship.

The trade not only delivered a gritty competitor who fits seamlessly into the new Tiger mindset, but did so while relieving considerable pressure on the team’s treasury for years to come.

Though Prince Fielder had his moments in Detroit, his postseason failures and apparent apathy ultimately resulted in a palace coup and his banishment to Texas.

Whether the man received in his stead will help lead the team to a World Series title remains to be seen.

It’s clear this year’s team, though, with the multi-faceted Ian Kinsler at the top of the line-up, is well-prepared for a deep postseason run.

And if they happen to win the World Series this fall, Kinsler, along with his talented teammates, would receive a most royal reception in the Motor City.

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