Power. Speed. Grit.
These are all individual qualities you love to have in your ballplayers. When a player possesses all three, like Rangers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler, you have to take full advantage of what a special player you have on your roster.
That’s why I believe it’s crucial the Rangers reassess where in the lineup they bat Kinsler to make the most of his special talents. Especially if they hope to take the next step in 2010.
Coming into this season the Rangers didn’t have a lead off guy that jumped off the page and fit the prototypical top of the order guy they needed. At least they didn’t at first. They knew they had power and could afford to nestle Kinsler in the one spot and take advantage of his speed. But now that the 2009 season has basically played itself out, is this what is best for the Rangers?
As I mentioned, heading into the season, the idea of Kinsler batting first worked out just fine. This was especially the case considering most didn’t think the Rangers would be as big a factor as they were in the West until at least 2010 or 2011. But once the Rangers established themselves as contenders, the Kinsler situation should have been looked at closer.
Take a look at how Kinsler has fared this season in the lead off spot versus hitting fifth or sixth:
Batting 1st: 501 PA, 24 HR, .249 AVG, .319 OBP, .801 OPS, .240 BABIP
Batting 5th: 29 PA, 2 HR, .308 AVG, .379 OBP, .995 OPS, .286 BABIP
Batting 6th: 50 PA, 5 HR, .293 AVG, .400 OBP, 1.059 OPS, .226 BABIP
Granted there isn’t too much data to work with in regards to Kinsler’s plate appearances batting fifth or sixth, but you can start to see a bit of a trend. While Kinsler may like to hit lead off, his skill set is more geared towards a middle of the lineup hitter.
Much like Alfonso Soriano on the north side of Chicago, Kinsler is best fit to drive in runs rather than being a table setter for the likes of Josh Hamilton and company. A big part of this is a result of his low on-base percentage. At .319 in the lead off spot (.324 overall) he is not doing his club any favors at getting ducks on the pond. While this was a career low for Kinsler (he had an OBP of .375 last season), it’s a far cry from someone you can trust to get on base.
Part of this falls on Kinsler’s K/BB ratio which sat at 76/55 which is a tad skewed for what you would ideally want. The problem here is that we have never seen a patient Kinsler as he enjoys to go up to the plate and take his hacks. This means the odds of him becoming this are pretty slim.
So while the speed of Kinsler is nice at the top of the lineup, his bat is his best weapon and needs to be harnessed. With the ineffective play of Chris Davis, the uncertainty of Marlon Byrd’s future with the club and a giant question mark regarding Hamilton, the Rangers are not going to have much of a choice but to bat Kinsler lower in the lineup. Their hand will essentially be forced.
While I feel this is their best course of action, the emergence of Julio Borbon and the accelerated progression of Elvis Andrus gives them two very strong options to come out of camp with heading into 2010. That’s quite a speedy one-two combo they have themselves. This gives them the best chance to slide Kinsler down to the five spot and not only give him more chances to drive in runs, but also give a little more protection the likes of Hamilton and whomever they bring back.
While this may decrease Kinsler’s 30/30 status next season (but not by too much) it will help solidify the Rangers’ lineup and bring them one step closer to their ultimate goal.
Here’s to taking advantage of power, speed and grit. And here's to taking another step towards a division crown.