Don Kelly – 3B Solution?
By Sam Genson
I have something I call the Don Kelly Rule, otherwise know as #DKR if you follow me on twitter (hey, if you don’t, you should – @tigercub33). I put this rule in effect last season as a form of protest every time Jim Leyland started Don Kelly (the position did not matter). I felt so strongly that he should NOT be starting that I boycotted every game he started. This year I continued that rule while instituting the “Verlander Clause” or “Verlander Exemption” – if Justin Verlander was pitching, that superseded the #DKR for obvious reasons. When Brandon Inge went on the disabled list I basically had to shelved the DKR as I would have been unable to watch Tigers baseball for close to a month.
Then a funny thing happened, even when Inge came back I stopped throwing up the #DKR on twitter (maybe I used it once or twice) as I realized Don Kelly wasn’t that bad.
It is interesting how a guy like Don Kelly can evoke such strong emotions among those who follow the Tigers closest. Some of the best examples of this are Rogo of DesigNate Robertson (who probably had some sort of #DKR himself) and Allison Hagen of Bless You Boys and NoRunSupport (who lists Kelly as one of her favorite Tigers). While I cannot explain those who have undying love for Mr. Kelly, the views of guys like Rogo are pretty easy to see. Kelly had a minor league career spanning 8 years where he was a useful but not outstanding player. Somehow he made an impression on the Tigers and they decided he should play a role down the stretch for them in 2009 and spent the whole year with the team in 2010, playing in 119 games while amassing 251 plate appearances.
This year he has played a much more prominent role due to the horrid play of Ryan Raburn (while in the OF) and Brandon Inge. Last week I wrote that the Tigers needed to look for solutions of averageness for their problems of below average performance. While it may be a stretch to call Kelly “average” with the bat, he plays very solid defense and right now he certainly is a better option at 3B than the aforementioned Brandon Inge (another Tiger lightning rod). While Inge is renowned for his spectacular defense, he seems to have lost a step this year and Kelly can perform comparably in the field. At the plate, there really isn’t any comparison as Inge is having the worst season of his career (and OPS of .499) while Kelly is performing at career norms (OPS of .639). Right now, playing Inge actually hurts the teams changes of winning (WAR of -1.1) while Kelly has a small positive influence on the teams chances with a WAR of 0.2.
So, while Don Kelly’s statistics may not look the best when viewed in a vacuum, if you compare them to that of the Tigers’ other option (the much higher paid option) they are a massive upgrade. I know other options do exist on the trade market and some even exist inside the Tigers Organization (Danny Worth and Ryan Raburn – which John hit on this week) but Kelly is certainly not the “Nuclear Option” that some perceive him to be, me included…I just ask that Jim Leyland doesn’t bat him 2nd in the lineup.
I guess this is all just a long way of saying that the #DKR is slowly dying and should probably be replaced by the #BIR.