Ian Kinsler: Could 2010 Be Better Than 2009?

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Ian Kinsler: Could 2010 Be Better Than 2009?
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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The Texas Rangers had their best season since 2004 and it’s no shock that Ian Kinsler was a key component to their success. It seems for about a decade the Rangers have possessed one of the league’s most lethal offenses, yet it’s their pitching that always lagged behind.

This year was a bit of an anomaly for the Rangers, as they scored 784 runs, the first time scoring that "few" in over a decade. They finished the season 12 games over .500, so their success is certainly a testament to better pitching.

Regardless, the Rangers had some unexpected hitting leaders this season. Michael Young led in average, Nelson Cruz in home runs and Marlon Byrd in RBI. Still, the season Ian Kinsler had can’t be disregarded and is all the more remarkable considering the Rangers low scoring totals and Josh Hamilton’s lack of production:

566 At Bats
.253 Batting Average (143 Hits)
31 Home Runs
86 RBI
101 Runs
31 Stolen Bases
.327 On Base Percentage
.488 Slugging Percentage

Durability is a concern with Kinsler, but this season he played the most games in his MLB career at 144. With the type of all-around production he provides, I’m not going to nit-pick too much with the durability issue right now. He did play in 23 more games than last season, so hopefully it’s a trend that will continue.

While the gap between Kinsler and Chase Utley as baseball’s best fantasy second basemen is thin, it would be a lot closer had Kinsler batted at a higher clip. The .253 average is a killer, but when you factor everything else he does for your team, you can’t be all that frustrated by it.

Regardless of the poor average, Kinsler is a career .279 hitter, so I’d automatically assume his average was due for an increase next season.

The rate that jumps out at you is Kinsler’s dreadful .245 BABIP. He had never finished a season with a BABIP lower than .282, so just an increase in that rate will correspond to a better average.

He posted a 54 percent fly-ball rate this season, which plays into his low BABIP. He had never had a FB rate lower than 45.7 percent, so I’d think a slight regression in that area is likely. Furthermore, his line-drive rate suffered this season, as his 15.9 percent was his career worst (19.6 percent was the mark before this season).

Additionally, his HR/FB rate of 11.8 percent is a little high, but compared to his 10.4 percent career average, even a slight decline won’t suppress Kinsler’s home run totals that much. The only thing an owner has to worry about is that less flyballs will inevitably mean less home runs.  His 31 home runs are terrific for a second basemen, but so would 25.

Kinsler nearly totaled Utley’s 91 RBI, with 86 RBI of his own. Granted, he batted lower in the order for portions of the second half, but Kinsler’s career-high before this season was 71 RBI in 121 games. This run-producing element to Kinsler’s game should be sustainable—his RBI output has increased in each of his four seasons in the majors.

The third second basemen in baseball to go 30-30 in a season, Kinsler has the power/speed combination that many owners should be willing to overpay for or reach for in a draft. Chase Utley had 31 HR, but only 23 steals (and had never stolen more than 16 before this year), so Kinsler is certainly exclusive.

When you realize Kinsler sported his worst OBP of his career this season and he still had 31 steals, you can only wonder how many he’d have if he reached his career average OBP of .350. In case it isn’t apparent, Kinsler still has untapped (but reachable) potential in his game.

At age 27, Kinsler is entering the prime of his career, which should benefit him even more. If we were to plot Kinsler’s game right now on a line-graph it would result in a steadily increasing line that hasn’t yet reached it’s peak. To have a player like Kinsler on your team, who can essentially do it all, allows you to target other areas of your team without the thought that you’re throwing away a category.

If I haven’t sold you on Kinsler yet, add this next reason to the list of why Kinsler is a true star. He batted .230 against righties (and .310 against lefties) this season, which is quite an aberration for him.

From 2006 to 2008 Kinsler has had an average of .288 against righties and .296 against lefties. The second basemen will do better against right-handers next season, I’ll guarantee that.

As the Professor mentioned in his 2B rankings, Kinsler may not bat leadoff next season. If he doesn’t he should be able to surpass his RBI output from this season. Either way, Kinsler is a solid second-round option next season.  If you can get Kinsler on the cheap because of his bad batting average this season, I’d recommend you do so as there are only a few more players that are more valuable (at a thin position) than Kinsler.

Here are my predictions:

.275, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 30 SB—more RBI if he bats lower in the order and higher SB totals if he bats leadoff.

What do you guys think? What are your predictions for Kinsler next season?  Could he overtake Utley as the best 2B in the league?

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