This one came to mind when a Twitter follower asked me about Kinsler’s value the rest of the season.
I have exactly zero shares of Kinsler so I have to admit that it’s one player I haven’t really been following all too closely this year.
I pulled up his FanGraphs page and the first thought that popped into my head was “guh”. Ten home runs and eight steals? What the?
To be fair, Kinsler missed a good portion of May and June, so his pro-rated Power/Speed numbers if he had been healthy is about 12-13 home runs and 10 steals. In that sense, in a full season this year, he would finish close to 20/15 which is something only a couple second basemen do annually. If not for the injury, his season wouldn’t look as gruesome.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on down in Texas.
My one concern about Kinsler has always been his batting average. In the five years coming into this season, his BA had been in the .250s three times, in the .280s once and .319 in 2008. What the heck is going on then?
- Ian Kinsler’s LD% on batted balls is 22.0%, which puts him in the tied for 50th in baseball (min. 400 PAs). Of those 51 players, only two have a K% of less than 10%, Kinsler (9%) and Nick Markakis (9.7%). There are a handful of players on that list at 11% or less, none hitting lower than .276 (Encarnacion).
- A big concern coming into this year was the big drop he had in BB% last year, going from 12.3% in 2011 to 8.2% in 2012. This stabilized a bit, settling at 8.5% so far this year.
- Most of his numbers aren’t too far out of line, either: his career GB% is 35.0, it’s 36.1% this year. His career FB% is 45.3%, this year it’s 41.9% (a little low, but not extreme).
- His HR/FB% is concerning for me: At 7% this year, it’s his lowest mark of his career other than 2010 (6.5%) and a good amount lower than his career rate of 9.7%.
Although he seems to be seeing the ball relatively well, with power numbers in their second straight year of decline, there are red flags. That being said, given his underlying numbers this year, Kinsler should be hitting a little better than .268, unless there’s another reason.
The second issue for Kinsler is his speed.
Coming into this year, his career stolen base success rate was 83.5%. This year it is 53.3%, or 16.7% lower than his previous career-low of 70% (last year). In the last few seasons, Kinsler has ranged anywhere from one stolen base every five-ish games to one stolen base every seven and a half games. This year, he’s been good for one stolen base every 11.75 games. Meaning, in head to head leagues, he went from a guy you could rely on for a bag a week to maybe one every two weeks. This is a significant drop-off.
Not only that, this marks the second consecutive year (so far at least) where Kinsler doesn’t have a bunt base-hit. Considering 92.9% of his at-bats in those two years have come from the leadoff position, this is a bit concerning. Either Texas coaches tell him “don’t bunt” because he does have power and is still a good line-drive hitter, or he’s unable to bunt for a base-hit anymore because, quite simply, he’s a 31-year old middle infielder with 4000 career at-bats.
Lastly on the speed issue, this season marks three straight years of decline for infield hits. In 2010, 10.5% of Kinsler’s groundballs on the infield ended up being hits. This year, that number is 4.9%. In a span of three years, his IFH% has been cut nearly in half (and has been declining steadily since 2010). It didn’t matter in 2008 and 2009 when he had similar IFH% percentages to this year, because he hit fewer ground balls then than he does now.
It seems all the concerns about Kinsler’s batting average were valid and the .268 mark might be about right for him, considering his speed issues.
I still have hope for the rest of the season. Kinsler has more home runs/at-bats in September for his career than he does any other month. Normally, this is just a random distribution but I do believe there is something to not mailing it in when September comes around and you’re in the playoff hunt (Texas hasn’t had fewer than 75 wins in any season since he became a regular). If we’re lucky, we’ll get five home runs and five stolen bases from Kinsler for the rest of the season.
I was willing to take a chance on Kinsler this year at the right price but he always went earlier than where I was comfortable with. I can’t say the same for next year. We are seeing consistently declining power numbers, declining speed numbers and several indicators of a body breaking down. This is a real shame, because he’s one of the top second base talents of the last decade.