One of the best Detroit Tigers trades in recent history was Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. Kinsler’s defense and offense in 2016 has continued to prove his value to the team. And it doesn’t get more exciting than when Kinsler hits a lead-off home run.
Or does it?
Does an Ian Kinsler lead-off home run lead to a win?
The answer is no.
So far in the 2016 season, Kinsler has hit five lead-off home runs. In 2014, he hit two and in 2015, he hit one. He was the everyday lead-off batter in 2014, but not in 2015.
In 2016, the Tigers are 2-3 when Kinsler hits a lead-off home run. In 2015, they were 1-0 and in 2014, they were 0-2. Overall, that puts the Tigers at 3-5 when he hits a lead-off home run.
In 2014, Kinsler’s lead-off home runs were both in August. One was hit against the Twins, but the Tigers ended up losing 6-20. Yeah…that was a bad day. The other game was against Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox – it was also a loss 3-6.
In 2015, Kinsler’s only lead-off dinger was against none other than Mike Pelfrey. This ended up being a win for the Tigers at 4-2.
It would seem that the Tigers, or any team, that starts the game with a lead-off home run would be set up for a win, but the numbers show otherwise. Baseball is a strange game and numbers always seem to even out.
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One theory is that pitchers who give up lead-off home runs buckle right down and clean up their pitches. That first pitch can be the most difficult to throw, especially with the roar of the crowd and the adrenaline rush that comes with stepping onto the mound.
Another theory is that the players might feel relaxed after the early run is scored. They might recognize that Kinsler, or anyone else who leads off with an out-of-the-park hit could hit a few more. The other team might also recognize that they have to work a little harder to get the score back to even or better.
Whatever the reasons happen to be, the Tigers do not generally succeed when Kinsler leads off the game with a ball that travels over the fence. It’s not to say that he should stop doing it, but that the Tigers need to recognize what happens when he does do it.
Hopefully, Kinsler will continue to hit home runs, but in different innings. I’m all for the lead-off home run to get the game going, but the walk-offs provide significantly more excitement! Let’s keep the goggles on and wins coming. Go, Tigers!