Ian Kinsler: Under-Achiever or Under-Appreciated?
By Dan Byrne
Sep 7, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second basemanIan Kinsler
(3) makes a throw to first in an attempted double play as San Francisco Giants right fielderHunter Pence
(8) slides into second in the sixth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Under-achiever or under-appreciated? The all-around contributions of Ian Kinsler in 2015 will be as critical to Tiger overall success as anyone else in this lineup. Use any metric you wish to evaluate Kinsler; traditional, SABRE, or just simply watching him play, day in and day out, and one quickly realizes he is a large cog in the Detroit Tiger machine. Ian is a scrappy, intense player who improved this team (and its finances) even before he suited up in the Olde English “D” .
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Kinsler played 160 games last year. He positively excelled in the field, his 9 errors notwithstanding. He ranged far and wide, as evidenced by leading the league in total chances and by actually topping all 2nd basemen in dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) at 2.9. That’s almost a half-game ahead of the 4th time Gold Glove winning Dustin Pedroia.
He twisted over 100 double-plays in the course of the season. For Tiger fans to realize he did this without the luxury of even a regular shortstop, is all the more amazing! I only wonder how much Rick Porcello would have benefited from a keystone combination of Jose Iglesias and Kinsler! He stands in there and takes it and almost never fails to make the relay to 1st. His former manager, Ron Washington, once said that, “No one turns a double play better.”
Kinsler is a good hitter, but one who seems to regress at certain times of the season. In fact only Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve had higher WAR production last year.
Certainly, many fans are aware of how much he tailed off offensively last season. I think it would a real advantage to him to hit all season long in front of Miguel Cabrera. But that will require more plate discipline and the willingness to go off-field much more than he did last year.
Ron Washington said of Ian Kinsler: “No one turns a double play better.”
Ian probably had fewer than 20 hits to the right side last year. He falls into bad habits because of his tendency to be a bit too pull happy, envisioning himself as somewhat of a power threat. But if he can be convinced to re-learn how to spray the ball to right, he will be able to boost last season’s .275/.307/.420 slash line significantly. He whacked 4 triples last year and oddly enough, 3 of them were to right or right-center. Ian spent a lot of time leading off last year and still managed to drive in 92 runs. As a base-runner he would have little trouble scoring from 1st on a Miggy double.
Of course the upside of Kinsler batting in the two-hole all year would mean that the lead-off man is getting on base. Both of the above happening would obviate the risky business of attempting to install the sluggish and weak-hitting Alex Avila in the top of the lineup.
This is the time and the season for Ian Kinsler to establish himself as a leader, a spark-plug and perhaps, a Gold-Glove winner for the first time in his impressive career.