Ian Kinsler is a frustrating player for me to review. While some people may want to push him above Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia, given his potential to go 30/30 every season, there is too much risk that he is going to perform in one category (most notably home runs) at the expense of another (generally his average).
If he could ever put everything together, then I could see the argument, but right now it’s an easy call for me. Kinsler is the third-best second baseman in the league.
Before getting into the specifics, let’s take a look at the numbers he posted in 2011:
620 At Bats
.255 Batting Average (158 Hits)
32 Home Runs
30 Stolen Bases
.355 On Base Percentage
.477 Slugging Percentage
It used to be that Kinsler was downgraded due to being an injury risk, but with over 550 AB (at least 144 games or more) in two of the past three seasons, that’s not a major concern for me at this point. The problem really is that it appears that he is just not capable of hitting for both power and a good average in the same season.
Kinsler has hit over 30 home runs twice in his career, but at what cost? In 2009 he hit 31, but it came courtesy of a 54 percent fly ball rate. Clearly he was trying to hit for power, and it showed as the increased fly balls led to a .241 BABIP. That, in turn, contributed to him hitting .253.
In 2010 he was limited to just 391 AB, but it’s clear that he went back to his “normal” style of play. He posted a 41.6 percent fly ball rate, which is along the lines of his 2006-2008 seasons (between 43.3 and 45.7 percent). Yes, you would’ve expected more than nine homers (just a 6.5 percent home run-to-fly ball ratio), but he posted a .313 BABIP and .286 average.
Last season, he reverted back to 2009. He once again appeared to be looking to hit for power, with a 47.1 percent fly ball rate. That led to another poor BABIP (.243) and another poor average (.255).
I know people are going to point to his 121 runs scored last season as another positive. If he’s not hitting for a good average, thus not getting on base as much as possible, it is nearly impossible for him to repeat the number. I don’t really care what lineup is behind him, it’s just not likely to happen.
The 77 RBI is a very good number, especially from a leadoff hitter, and one that Kinsler has proven capable of before. It is actually the third time he’s eclipsed the 70 RBI barrier and, while a regression is possible, at this point you would have to expect 70-plus.
The problem with Kinsler simply is that he appears to be an all-or-nothing type of player. The fact that he may go 30/30 is great, but it comes at an expense.
I know you are going to say that Cano and Pedroia have their warts as well. For Cano, it’s his lack of speed. However, there were only three 2B eligible for the batting title to steal more than 20 bases. There were only six with more than 15. It’s not a huge deficit to overcome elsewhere, especially since he was the only 2B who went 100/100 and one of three to hit better than .290.
With Pedroia, it’s the fact that he may not “excel” at one statistic. However, he’s coming off of a year in which he went off for .307 with 21 HR, 91 RBI, 102 R and 26 SB. Do you want to say that he’ll fall to around 80 RBI? Even if that were the case, he helps you across the board. There is just too much to like.
With Kinsler, yes, he gives you an edge by contributing in power, speed and all of the other counting stats. The problem is the average, where he can potentially sink you. There were seven 2B who hit better than .275. There were 10 who hit at least .269. It is a big disadvantage and, even if Kinsler corrects it, it easily could come at the expense of his power numbers.
There certainly is a lot to like about Kinsler, but there also is more than enough of a negative to hold him below the other top options. Just keep that in mind before pushing him up your draft board above Cano or Pedroia.
Make sure to check out our 2012 projections: