Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Ian Kinsler
By Tom Zahari
Ian Kinsler has been extremely successful coming to the Detroit Tigers via a trade three years ago. Here’s a look at how he’ll perform this season.
On November 21, 2013, the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. In Kinsler, the Tigers had their first legitimate second baseman since they allowed Placido Polanco walk out the door after the 2009 season.
In his two years with the Tigers, Kinsler has posted a .285/.324/.424 split with seasons of 17 home runs and 92 RBI and 11 home runs with 73 RBI. He was an All Star in 2014 where he logged a career high in games played, plate appearances, and at bats. He has also been one of the Tigers best players according to WAR with seasons of 5.7 and 6.0 WAR according to Baseball Reference.
In June, Kinsler will be 34 years old, but can still play at an All Star Level. ZiPS has projected Kinsler to hit at a .277/.324/.411 split with 12 home runs and 85 RBI with 11 steals. Steamer has projected Kinsler with a weaker slash line at .369/.318/.410, but with 14 home runs and 82 RBI with 10 steals.
Kinsler is projected to lead off for the Tigers if they use their exhibition opener lineup as their Opening Day lineup. In 2015, Kinsler hit at a .303/.321/.450 split when he led off with a .280/.333/.405 split when he hit second. With the threats of Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez lurking, pitchers throw Kinsler more fastballs where he feasts.
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Kinsler’s biggest weakness over the course of his career has been propensity for pop-ups, so much so, that some circles have come up with the hashtag #IKPU (Ian Kinsler Pop-Up). Kinsler has a career infield fly ball percentage of 12.0%. In 2015, that number was up to 12.7%. If Kinsler is going to lead off for the Tigers, he needs to be able to cut those down and hit more line drives to get on base.
The most underrated part of Kinsler’s game, and probably most valuable to the Tigers, is his defense. Although Kinsler has never won a Gold Glove, he has been deserving, but has lost out to Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, and Jose Altuve in the primes of their careers.
Next: Detroit Tigers Player Profile: Buck Farmer
Peter Gammons called Kinsler one of the top defensive second baseman, citing hit defensive WAR as the best of any AL second baseman. Kinsler told Gammons, “When I got to 30, I made up my mind that I had to get very serious about conditioning, quickness, range, diet, everything that goes into defense,” says Kinsler. “I also find it’s really important to go out during batting practice and take balls live off the bat. Defense is now recognized as such an important part of the game, and there’s a great deal that goes into playing consistent defense.”