Fan Poll: Where should Ian Kinsler bat in 2015?
By Dave Holcomb
It doesn’t sound like a difficult question.
Ian Kinsler hit first or second in 156 of his 160 starts during the 2014 season. In over 60 percent of his 1,217 career starts, Kinsler has hit leadoff. Over 80 percent of his starts, Kinsler has hit either first, second or third.
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He hit third on Tuesday, filling in for Miguel Cabrera and belted a three-run home run versus the Orioles. Yoenis Cespedes batted fourth and also hit a home run, crushing a grand slam.
With Cespedes and other speedsters on the roster this season, manager Brad Ausmus seemingly has more lineup options than he did a season ago.
If Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are healthy, it is hard to argue they shouldn’t hit third and fourth, respectively. One could argue Kinsler could hit third, which would bump Cabrera and Martinez each back one spot, but that doesn’t seem wise. Although that could lead to Cabrera and Martinez hitting more often with runners on base, Cabrera needs to be guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning.
Where Kinsler hits in the lineup may ultimately depend on who starts in center field. Rajai Davis has great speed, 36 steals last season despite only 494 plate appearances, and hits very well versus left-hander pitchers. Davis has a career .304 batting average against lefties as opposed to a .254 career average against righties.
Kinsler also has a higher career batting average against left-handed pitching, but his power disappears. He hit just four home runs against lefties and 13 against righties in 2014.
That would favor Kinsler leading off, providing pop out of the leadoff spot, versus right-handers while batting Kinsler second and Davis leadoff against left-handers.
Catcher Alex Avila, who hit second on Tuesday, could fit in the two-hole in lineups where Kinsler leads off.
That likely puts Cespedes in the fifth spot.
Those are the matchups that seem to make the most sense at the moment, but Ausmus doesn’t necessarily have to use that exact approach.
Cespedes, who stole 16 bases and posted a .356 on-base percentage in 2012, could be placed at the top of the order, moving Kinsler to either third or fifth. It wouldn’t make much sense to hit him fourth, presumably behind Cabrera, but Ausmus could use Cabrera in the fourth spot to protect Kinsler batting third.
Or Kinsler could be a speedy fifth hitter behind the big bats. But again, that might not work all the time because Kinsler doesn’t hit for much power versus lefties.
It’s also possible to put both Kinsler and Cespedes at the top of the order in front of Cabrera and Martinez.
What do you think? Assuming everyone is healthy, could Kinsler consistently hit somewhere other than first or second this season?
Please vote in our fan poll. If you feel very strongly about your opinion, we would love to hear about it in the comments section at the bottom of this article.