Amazing Facts Regarding Don Kelly

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

I am an unabashed Don Kelly fan. I’ll be clear. My agenda here is to highlight good things about Kelly and really just have some fun with small samples and arbitrary endpoints. One should not read this post as something other than a lighthearted love letter to the Tigers utility man.

He is not a great baseball player, but he is a very useful player to have on a major league team because of his versatility and decent all-around game. I’m a fan because I like utility players and I like players who are super-polite and just really enjoy playing baseball. For example, this Onion satire is based largely on me:

I am also, to my knowledge the only person on Earth who owns this article of clothing:


I’m weird, okay, let’s move past it. Let’s talk about Don Kelly’s 2013 season! Everything here is 100% true. Especially the last one.

1. Don Kelly currently has a .340 OBP, the best of his career. It is better than league average. It is also better than Albert Pujols’.

2. Don Kelly is currently walking more than he is striking out 13.2% to 12.3%. Only 7 players with 100 PA are doing that this year. Here they are:

Name Team PA BB% K%
Norichika Aoki Brewers 316 8.50% 5.40%
Coco Crisp Athletics 263 12.20% 10.30%
Alberto Callaspo Angels 226 9.30% 7.50%
Marco Scutaro Giants 284 7.70% 6.70%
Don Kelly Tigers 106 13.20% 12.30%
Munenori Kawasaki Blue Jays 183 13.10% 12.60%
Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 345 12.20% 11.90%

3. Only 5 players have a higher wRC+ in June than Don Kelly (min 10 PA), if I gave you 100 guesses and no internet access, you wouldn’t guess more than one. Here they are:

Name Team PA wRC+
Zoilo Almonte Yankees 14 345
Chris Herrmann Twins 12 303
Matt Tuiasosopo Tigers 21 273
Gerald Laird Braves 13 265
Wil Nieves Diamondbacks 17 243
Don Kelly Tigers 19 241

4. Don Kelly is hitting 102 wRC+ on the season. That’s better than league average.

5. With runners in scoring position (RISP) this season, Don Kelly is 3rd in batting average (min 20 PA). Only Miguel Cabrera and Allen Craig are better.

6. With RISP this year Don Kelly has a .561 OBP. Only Miguel Cabrera is better. In baseball, not just on the Tigers.

7. He’s also 7th in SLG with RISP.

8. By wRC+, the best all around offensive rate stat, Don Kelly is the 2nd best hitter with RISP this season (min 20 PA) with 264 wRC+. Only Miguel Cabrear is better. Again, in baseball, not just the Tigers.

9. Don Kelly is having a good all-around season, but has decided to be superhuman with men in scoring position:

Bases Empty 0.220 0.339 0.380 0.322 101
Men on Base 0.244 0.340 0.390 0.327 104
Men In Scoring 0.444 0.565 0.778 0.561 264

10. Don Kelly has been in five 3-0 counts this season. He has walked every time.

11. Kelly has come in to pinch run 3 times this season. He scored twice.

12. When the game is tied, Don Kelly hits .360/.407/.560.

13. At home, Kelly hits .282/.391/.513.

14. Don Kelly has only 3 HR this season, but they have come against pitchers who collectively allow 1 HR every 50.65 batters. League average is 1 HR every 37.86 batters. The pitchers are Samuel Deduno, Justin Masterson, and of course, Yu Darvish.

15. Don Kelly has played all 9 positions in his career. No other active player has done that. Inge just needs to pitch. I was at this game, after insisting to my mother that we shouldn’t leave.


16. This is a picture of Don Kelly and his wife, Carrie. She is Neil Walker’s sister. Those are her parents. She’s is both beautiful, and given what I know about Don, likely a very lovely woman.


17. Don Kelly once lifted Prince Fielder. He is the only person in recorded history to do so.



9 responses

  1. Great story. I wonder though, if you were to apply the same Regression to Mean that you applied to Victor Martinez that Don Kelly’s numbers would get worse the rest of the year. If that is the case, then great year Don Kelly, you are excused for the rest of the baseball season.

    1. FWIW, Kelly isn’t likely to regress to the mean as dramatically as Martinez because the difference in Kelly’s game is based more on skills that are predictive in smaller samples. I don’t expect Kelly to keep crushing with RISP and hit this well, but the increase in walk rate and decrease in strikeout rate are less fluky than things like BABIP and average. He’s chasing 8-10% fewer pitches outside the zone and is making more contact. There’s no reason to think he’ll continue to play above average like this, but there is actually some indication he’s made a real improvement in his game.

      That was way too detailed a response for a post I began:

      “I am an unabashed Don Kelly fan. I’ll be clear. My agenda here is to highlight good things about Kelly and really just have some fun with small samples and arbitrary endpoints. One should not read this post as something other than a lighthearted love letter to the Tigers utility man.”

  2. […] this year I penned this love letter to Don Kelly (my favorite player), but other than that, you don’t see big features written about guys who […]

  3. born and raised in boston, went to alcs game 2 last night, scalped some seats very late and wound up sitting next to don Kelly’s wife. extremely pleasant and chatted baseball and Detroit with her during the game. After the papi homerun she and the tigers family section got noticeably less chatty, but I can’t blame her lol. we were openly celebrating what must have been a devastating blow to what appeared to be a very promising 2-0 series lead heading back to Detroit w verlander waiting. on the flip side for me, probably the best game I’ve ever been to regarding the drama and the finish. before the homer I told my friend that papi was pedro cerrano from major league, having had a crappy two games, swinging and missing terribly, and was talking to himself to get it done. when benoit was warming up he was just staring at him, getting it all down. I told my friend before the pitch , “its going into the bullpen” and benoit made the mistake of grooving him a first pitch fastball.

    1. That’s pretty cool. The part about sitting next to Kelly’s wife, not the part about you enjoying the Red Sox coming back against the Tigers. I didn’t like that part of your story very much.

  4. […] utility players and champion them at every turn. After a strong first half (110 wRC+) last year, I jumped at the chance to tell everyone how great Kelly was. It’s cool when Miguel Cabrera succeeds, but in my […]

  5. I know this post is old, but I feel like everyone should know that is both a real thing and amazing.

  6. Sorry but i too have a don kelly #32 hoody my wife had made for me. My saying is. He justs looks like a ball player. We could start a fan club but most dont understand. So i will b there to watch a great all around player!!!

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