Getting To Know Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tiger

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Over the last few days we’ve had many discussions about the merits of the big trade, and the view from the first inning is that the Tigers made a good move for the long run with the short run value left a bit up in the air based on how they spend their financial savings. We think Prince is likely to bounce back a little bit and Kinsler will continue on his current path which places him somewhere around 3 wins if he plays most of the 2014 season. It’s kind of hard to say anymore about the deal as a whole without knowing what Dombrowski is up to next, but we can start to think about Ian Kinsler in a Tigers uniform because there’s a pretty high probability that’s actually going to happen. I mean, unless those Robinson Cano private jet to Willow Run rumors are true…

Kinsler is entering his age 32 season and has eight years of big league experience almost exclusively at second base for the Texas Rangers.

Year G PA R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2006 120 474 65 121 27 1 14 11 4 .286 .347 .454 .801 105
2007 130 566 96 127 22 2 20 23 2 .263 .355 .441 .796 108
2008 121 583 102 165 41 4 18 26 2 .319 .375 .517 .892 134
2009 144 640 101 143 32 4 31 31 5 .253 .327 .488 .814 107
2010 103 460 73 112 20 1 9 15 5 .286 .382 .412 .794 110
2011 155 723 121 158 34 4 32 30 4 .255 .355 .477 .832 118
2012 157 731 105 168 42 5 19 21 9 .256 .326 .423 .749 97
2013 136 614 85 151 31 2 13 15 11 .277 .344 .413 .757 105
8 Yrs 1066 4791 748 1145 249 23 156 172 42 .273 .349 .454 .804 110
162 Game Avg. 162 728 114 174 38 3 24 26 6 .273 .349 .454 .804 110
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2013.

Those numbers can give you a basic sense of his career path, but we’re obviously going to dig a little deeper to understand the type of player he is.

AT THE PLATE

Year PA BB% K% ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+
2006 474 8.40% 13.50% 0.168 0.304 0.345 102
2007 566 11.00% 14.70% 0.178 0.279 0.35 108
2008 583 7.70% 11.50% 0.199 0.334 0.385 133
2009 640 9.20% 12.00% 0.235 0.241 0.351 105
2010 460 12.20% 12.40% 0.125 0.313 0.355 114
2011 723 12.30% 9.80% 0.223 0.243 0.364 123
2012 731 8.20% 12.30% 0.166 0.270 0.327 100
2013 614 8.30% 9.60% 0.136 0.288 0.334 105

Kinsler’s declining walk rate is a concern, but he also doesn’t strike out very often. His power has really been up and down throughout his career as has his BABIP. You’ll notice with a more complete number like wRC+, he’s been a league average hitter or better in every season of his career with a couple of big years in which he hit for more power. If we’re thinking about Kinsler heading into his Tigers years, there is really no way we can expect that pop to return. Looking at an average to slightly above average bat with a wRC+ somewhere between 100-110 probably makes sense heading into 2014.

Kinsler has always been known for his home/road split. Texas is one of the best parks in which to hit, but it’s important to note that Comerica Park is becoming for hitter friendly over time.

Split G PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+
Home 538 2399 85 .304 .387 .511 .898 .311 123
Away 528 2392 71 .242 .312 .399 .710 .252 77
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2013.

For his career, the split is pretty significant and in 2013 there’s still plenty about which to be worried.

Split G PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+
Home 68 301 5 .292 .371 .408 .779 .302 107
Away 68 313 8 .263 .317 .418 .735 .273 93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2013.

You’ll notice Kinsler slugged better on the road in 2013 despite getting on base much less frequently. Generally speaking, we should expect Kinsler to hit worse at Comerica than he did in Arlington, but everyone hits worse in Comerica than they do in Arlington. The adjustments he makes will be important.

There’s also some concern that he doesn’t use the right side of the field very effectively, but that’s always been part of his game so it’s not like our view of him going forward should change very dramatically. He has three career homeruns to the right-side of second base, though, which is crazy.

All in all, Kinsler is a solid major league hitter. In 2013, the average second baseman hit 9% worse than league average. Kinsler hit 5% better. For reference, Infante was 17% better but that was also Infante’s best season ever.

BASERUNNING

Kinsler has been a very strong baserunner in his career both with respect to taking extra bases and stealing bases efficiently. Here are his overall baserunning runs above average:

Year PA BsR
2006 474 0.7
2007 566 7.2
2008 583 8.9
2009 640 6.1
2010 460 3.4
2011 723 9.5
2012 731 4.6
2013 614 -0.5

His 2013 didn’t look great and that was mostly a function of getting caught stealing much more than normal.

Year SB CS SB% OOB XBT%
2006 11 4 73% 6 45%
2007 23 2 92% 2 52%
2008 26 2 93% 7 59%
2009 31 5 86% 3 42%
2010 15 5 75% 8 55%
2011 30 4 88% 4 66%
2012 21 9 70% 4 53%
2013 15 11 58% 7 61%
8 Yrs 172 42 80% 41 55%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/23/2013.

Until last year, Kinsler was one of the most successful basestealers in the game. The rule of thumb is that you need to have a success rate of 70% or better for it to be worth it and Kinsler had some seasons in the high 80s and 90s. It’s unclear if 2013 is a blip or a trend, but given how rough the Tigers are on the bases, he can only be an upgrade. That is especially true when it comes to his extra bases taken percentages as league average is 39% and he has been above 50% in each of his last four seasons.

It’s important to realize that Kinsler is only going to get worse on the bases as he ages, but he’s coming down from a very high peak.  There’s no question he makes the Tigers a better baserunning team and should be able to provide at least a couple of runs above average in that department in 2014.

FIELDING

Season Inn DRS RZR OOZ UZR UZR/150
2006 1032 -3 0.827 20 -8.1 -8.5
2007 1136.2 4 0.845 53 -8.7 -9
2008 1064 -9 0.801 20 -4.8 -5.8
2009 1258 22 0.835 47 10.1 10.1
2010 905.1 7 0.854 23 3.3 6
2011 1269 18 0.872 38 16 17.3
2012 1265 1 0.770 66 -0.3 -0.1
2013 1095.1 11 0.836 34 -1 -1.2

The report on Kinsler’s defense is a little bit mixed, but it tells a pretty clear story if you know what to look for. DRS likes Kinsler more than UZR over the course of his career, but both have him as something better than average. The question isn’t if Kinsler is good, it’s if he’s a little better than par for the course or if he’s great. RZR tells you the percentage of balls in his zone he’s turned into outs and his career mark of 82.9% puts him solidly above average at second base. Kinsler has great range, but occasionally boots a few to many balls. That’s nice to see in the data, because that’s exactly what I thought about him based on my own observation.

Kinsler isn’t going to be another Iglesias, but he’s going to be a solid defensive player who can stay at second base at least for a couple more seasons.

THE ENTIRE GAME

So Kinsler has an above average bat for the position and adds positive value on the bases and in the field. He’s a little bit injury prone, but he’s been a solid major league regular or better in every year of his career regardless:

Year PA WAR
2006 474 1.1
2007 566 2.5
2008 583 4.9
2009 640 4.5
2010 460 3.2
2011 723 7.3
2012 731 3.0
2013 614 2.5

Kinsler is leaving his prime years, but there’s no reason he can’t produce a could more 2-3.5 win seasons if he stays reasonably healthy. Kinsler is one of those players who is above average everywhere but great nowhere. Those are very useful players, especially when the Tigers already have plenty of players who are really good at certain things and not so good at others. Kinsler adds nice balance to the team and should earn a good portion of the salary he has coming his way.

The Tigers likely aren’t doing wheeling and dealing this offseason, but the first big move netted them some financial savings and pretty nice player to boot.

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4 responses

  1. About B-R’s 162 game average numbers: Why does it say Kinsler is averaging 162 games when he’s never played more than 157 games in a season? Do the other 162 game average numbers represent averages under the assumption he would not miss a game?

    1. Those numbers are his numbers per 162 games played, not his average numbers per season.

  2. […] The Fielder-Kinsler Deal, and Ian Kinsler […]

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