I think we’re all at the point where we know that April baseball comes with a grain of salt – it’s only the prologue, whereas we don’t know if the rest of the story will be good or bad. Yet, you have to give it credit: sometimes it can be a definitive precursor to a full-season pattern, like Jose Bautista‘s breakout in 2010 (which was hinted at in September of 2009, but I digress). For Tigers’ fans it’s a nice time gauge one of the most miraculous trades of recent memory and compare Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler. Matt Snyder wrote a great piece initially examining the two players, but this time around let’s channel our inner Crusty Old Scout and examine them from a Five-Tool perspective with their April Stats.
May 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) runs to first against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Hitting for Average:
At the end of April, it wasn’t even a contest: Fielder’s average sat at an abysmal .206, and Kinsler was hitting .283. Looking at their BABIPs one can see that their averages line up pretty well with what the product actually was: Fielder had to deal with a .224 BABIP, and also saw an increase in his ground ball rate (51.0%!!!!) and his pull-rate (37%) – which means a strict infield shift will basically get that dude out if the ball isn’t in the air. Kinsler has a .292 BABIP, which makes his average seem all the more legit. One would think that the jet stream in Arlington would be more of an aid to Fielder, while conversely it seems like Comerica spacious confines are found agreeable by Mr. Kinsler. Of note is that Fielder had the advantage in OBP, .331-.314, so Prince’s patience is still in place. Yet one simply has to assume Fielder will rebound, but after the first month this tool is clearly in Kinsler’s favor.
Hitting for Power:
Both gentlemen had two home runs each in April, but which player was supposed to have more? With the aforementioned jet stream in Arlington, one would think that Fielder would make like vintage Josh Hamilton and start banging homers left and right. He clearly has the muscle, he clearly has the lineup protection, and his swing is perfect for moonshots to rightfield. However, his ISO was .108, and he had only 5 additional extra base hits, all doubles. Even in April, that is pretty terrible. Kinsler, on the other hand, wasn’t expected to contribute too much pop, so two dongs was just about in line with what he was supposed to do. His ISO was .121, including a surprising .141 at home, and he had six doubles. Kinsler also has the advantage in RBIs, 14-9. I’ll take a second baseman with those numbers over a first baseman with Fielder’s numbers. Advantage: Kinsler.
This is a no-contest win for Kinsler without even examining peripherals: The acquisition of Kinsler completely and dramatically changed the dynamic of the Tigers’ infield for the better. He has shown better range than his predecessor, Omar Infante. and has made things easier for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez at first with that range. He makes nifty catches and executes routine plays with the same ease. Fielder, on the other hand, is a DH with a glove. He’s already had trouble fielding bunts (as evidenced by an April 7th against Boston), and his range at first is the equivalent of a steamer trunk filled with cupcakes. Yet, although the eye test suggests Kinsler, UZR/150 favors Fielder in April, 3.8 – 1.0. One also has to take into account the difficulty of each position, and it’s there where Kinsler takes the advantage over Fielder.
After watching Kinsler perfectly relay a couple throws from Torii Hunter, I can’t imagine Fielder coming out ahead in this category. If Prince can flip to the pitcher covering first, it’s celebration-worthy. Let’s give this to Kinsler and his gun.
Look, no one’s ever going to confuse Prince Fielder with a gazelle. The Fantastic Four’s blue-eyed Thing? Perhaps, but never a graceful creature. Kinsler is fast, man. The 20 pounds he dropped in the offseason seems evident in the fact that he can score from first and that he can take the extra base. He has 3 steals to Prince’s 0. The funny thing, though, is that both of these guys are capable of baserunning gaffes of epic proportion. :
Yet Kinsler’s errors are from being overly-aggressive, and Fielder’s are because HE DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO RUN THE BASES. If Kinsler is thrown out at second for trying to stretch a single into a double, yeah, it’s frustrating. If he’s tossed out at home trying to score from second? Again: frustrating, but the point is that he is capable of succeeding in those actions, and if he’s safe in both scenarios we laud his efforts. With Fielder, simply advancing from first to second was worthy of a cold sweat. Advantage in April to Kinsler.
So there we have it. One month in Kinsler has a decidedly delightful advantage over Fielder, and that doesn’t even factor in the fact that Dombrowski traded one of the worst contracts for one that isn’t nearly as destructive. I can’t wait to revisit these gents at the end of May.