Ian Kinsler Finding His Form

If you just started following the baseball season right now with no intimate knowledge of how every player’s current numbers were accumulated, you’d think Ian Kinsler was having a perfectly reasonable season. There’s been a power-for-on-base exchange, but he’s actually a point higher in OPS from last year at .728 through 398 PA so far. His 104 wRC+ is very much in line with the 100, 105, and 102 of the previous three years.

Alas, most have you have been following the season closely and know that he went nearly two full months without a home run before snapping the skid on May 30th. It took another 21 games and 90 PA for his second, but then just 11 games for the third and a mere six games separating that one and both his fourth and fifth, which were clubbed in the same game on Monday night. He’s still only on pace for nine homers which would tie his career-low, set in just 103 games, but his last 40 games suggest he’s back to being the teens-level home run hitter of the last three seasons.
Whenever a stark turn comes for a player, the first question is always “what’s different?”

I think Kinsler’s batted ball and plate discipline profiles really illuminate a change in approach, opting for a more aggressive approach likely in the hopes of recapturing his power. Let’s look at the profiles by month first:

Month PA K% BB% LD% GB% FB% HR/FB%
Apr 102 12% 9% 25% 38% 37% 0%
May 124 14% 13% 21% 39% 39% 3%
Jun 107 17% 7% 24% 31% 45% 3%
Jul 65 11% 3% 22% 35% 43% 13%

The biggest keys are the BB% and FB%. He carried an 11% walk rate through May which isn’t a crazy outlier for him. He used to have big time walk rates in his mid-to-late 20s without it hampering his power, but he has a 9% career rate and a 7% mark over the last three years. It certainly seemed like the patience was sapping some of his power.

He had a .271/.350/.367 line through May with a 1.0 GB/FB rate. The 38% was well below his 43% in 2014 and would’ve been a new career-low had it held for the year. Since June 1st, he has a .280/.326/.416 line with a 5% walk rate and 44% flyball rate. His 0.8 GB/FB rate in that time matches his career mark. Let’s look at the results of his more aggressive approach:

Month PA Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
Apr 102 31% 40% 30% 17% 58% 25%
May 124 42% 36% 22% 20% 58% 22%
Jun 107 48% 24% 28% 19% 61% 21%
Jul 65 51% 35% 15% 11% 49% 40%

He didn’t start hitting the ball harder until just in July, but the big key here was getting back to his pulling ways which he did in June. His 49% Pull% since June 1st is in line with his 47% career mark. He was at 48% a year ago and has finished a season below 48% just once since 2009 (46% in 2013). His recent work has only gotten his composite figure to 42%. One last chart that highlights the change in aggression for Kinsler:

Month PA Swing% Miss% Contact% Chase% SwStr% P/PA
Apr 102 44% 10% 90% 22% 4.5% 3.9
May 124 41% 10% 90% 21% 4.2% 4.2
Jun 107 46% 16% 84% 27% 7.2% 3.8
Jul 65 51% 15% 85% 28% 7.5% 3.7

The swing rate and swinging strike rate tell the story here. He’s swinging more and while he’s also missing more, he’s doing enough damage to justify that trade-off with the walk rate. There is a chance that Kinsler stays hot and plays at his upper-level of expectations for the rest of the season, but at the very least I think he will be his 2012-14 self for the rest of the season – at least power-wise. Over those three seasons he averaged a .269/.325/.419 line with 16 HRs, 79 RBIs, and 97 runs.

Even with his early season sputtering, he is already pacing toward 73 RBIs and 91 runs so those are pretty much in line. He has logged more than 700 PA in three of the last four seasons with 2013 being the only exception when he had 614 in 136 games (intercostal strain). Let’s give him another 302 PA to put him at 700 on the dot. If he plays at hi 2012-14 pace, he would yield 7 HRs, 34 RBIs, and 42 runs.

ZiPS only has four other guys with 7+ HRs the rest of the way: Brian Dozier at 10 and then Robinson Cano, Neil Walker, and Jonathan Schoop all at seven. By the way, ZiPS has Kinsler with 6 HRs, 33 RBIs, and 38 runs the rest of the way which of course makes sense since it relies more on Kinsler’s past seasons than just the first two months of the current season.  Kinsler checked in at #7 on the midseason 2B rankings with a high of #6 and low at #10.

The key to whether or not he beats that isn’t his recent power surge lasting, but rather his wheels firing back up. He started the season 6-for-6, but hasn’t logged a stolen base since May 19th, going 0-for-4 in the process. Steals come in bunches even more frequently than home runs in my opinion so I’m not worried about the recent cold streak on the bases, but I’d at least like to see some more attempts as he’s had just two in his last 29 games. Perhaps if the dry spell continues, I’ll dive into that for another piece.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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6 years ago

I wonder if the change in batting order from #2 to leadoff spot after Miggy injury has anything to do with things? probably not.