Expect a Bigger Season From Kinsler in 2010

November 17, 2009 at 11:45 pm 5 comments

Ian Kinsler

Ian Kinsler set some personal milestones in 2009. He set career highs in homers (31), stolen bases (31), WAR (4.6), UZR/150 (+9.6), fielding percentage (.985), games played (144), plate appearances (640), and at-bats (566). A fantastic season by any accounts, even with his slash line of .253/.327/.488 being down from the previous season. Oh, and his 30/30 season was only the third ever by a second baseman (Alfonso Soriano and Brandon Phillips are the other two). Not much room to go up from there, right? Wrong. I will show you why Kinsler is due for bigger and better things.

Kinsler had the lowest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of any qualifying player in the majors at .245. This number was easily the lowest of any season in Kinsler’s career (.339, .282, 310). This is a big deal. Imagine two hits per month that just happen to fall in and not get caught. This would move his BABIP to .271 and his overall AVG to .274, and that is still a low BABIP according to his career averages.

Another area of Kinsler’s 2009 season that was out of the norm was his LD% (line-drive percentage). In his first three seasons he posted LD% of 20.6, 19.6, and 24.2. In 2009 he posted a LD% of 15.9, 10th lowest in the majors. That is surely a number that Kinsler will bring back to normal in 2010.

Kinsler is about to enter his age 27 season, thought to be the season that most players have their breakout performances. In Kinsler’s case, this will be his 5th season in the majors and he is full healthy. He is also surrounded by a lineup that no pitcher wants to pitch to.

Kinsler didn’t do anything out of the norm to warrant a drop in his BABIP and LD%. His out-of-zone swing percentage was in-line with his career averages and his contact rates were the best of his career while his BB% was exactly the same as his career average of 9.4%.

With all that said, Kinsler should have no problems bringing his BABIP and LD% back to his career norms. If those two things happen, in addition to his continued progress as a player, I see no reason why Kinsler cannot hit at least .285/.370/.525 and go above and beyond another 30/30 season. Add that to the well above-average defense he displayed last season and Kinsler may very well be on his way to an MVP type season. Do not rule it out.

-stats from FanGraphs.com

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Mulgrew  |  November 18, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I liked this better when I read it the first time (from August 25, 2009, the exact same analysis):

    http://www.jasonmulgrew.com/main/2009/08/25/fantasy-football-preview-2009/

    “Allow me to draw your attention to Ian Kinsler, second baseman for the Texas Rangers (bear with me). From a fantasy baseball perspective, I love Ian Kinsler, who is currently batting .245 with 79 runs, 26 home runs, 69 RBI and 24 stolen bases. Sure, the average is not hot, and maybe he’s a bit of health risk (he’s never played more than 130 games in his young career, though he should surpass that this year), but the power-speed numbers, especially coming from a 2B, are hotttt (yes, several “t”s).

    Here’s something you might not know about Ian Kinsler: he has the lowest BABIP in the league. BABIP stands for “Batting Average on Balls In Play” and it’s exactly that – the average of a hitter once he puts a ball in play. The league average this year is around .310. Kinsler’s is .234.

    Now by itself, this appears to mean that Kinsler has been very unlucky. Maybe he’s been robbed of a few hits by slick-fielding SS here, a ground-eating CF there, or maybe he’s just hitting balls right at defenders. Bummer for him. But here’s another fun stat about Mr. Kinsler: he’s got one of the lowest line-drive percentages (LD%) in the league. Again, the stat is what it sounds like – what percentage of a batter’s hit are line-drives, solidly hit balls. League average is a tad over 19%. Kinsler’s is 13.6%.

    So it’s not necessarily that Kinsler’s been unlucky, but that once he makes contact with the ball, he’s not driving it. He’s not getting strong contact. If Kinsler led the league in LD% (meaning he was getting strong contact) and was last in BABIP, we could reasonably conclude that, yeah, the guy’s really, really unlucky and has been getting robbed of hits. Alternatively, if he was low in LD% (weak contact) but high in BABIP, we’d call him a lucky son of a bitch and assume that he regularly played against a defense with a 2B-SS double play combination of David Ortiz and Travis Hafner.

    Instead, he’s both low in LD% and BABIP, which we can conclude means one thing: he stinks. Or at the very least, that he’s having a terrible year.

    But that’s the thing: Aside from the low .249 average, Kinsler’s got 79 runs, 26 homers, 69 RBI and 23 stolen bases. Those are excellent numbers. So I ask you, dear friends, what kind of monster fucking numbers do you think Ian Kinsler can put up when his LD% and BABIP normalize? Kinsler’s career LD% is 19.8 and his career BABIP is .294. He’s at 13.6 and .234 this year, and still he’s put up 77 runs, 26 homers, 69 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

    One of these years – likely in the next year or two – Ian Kinsler is going to put it all together, play 150+ games in a season, and a have historic fantasy season (think 125+ runs, 35+ homers, 105+ RBI, 35+ stolen bases). I don’t think his average will ever get much above about .285, but those numbers coming from a 2B would make him the most valuable player in the game, or at least among the top three.

    It’s all right there. I just laid it out for you. You can argue with me if you like, but I just made a claim and backed it up with pure, reliable, unbiased data, taken from a large sample (Kinsler’s had over 1800 at-bats in his career, and the league average BABIP and LD% obviously include hundreds of players and thousands of at-bats from this season). “

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  November 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Sorry brother, never once saw your superior article before you just posted it here.

    Reply
  • 3. Yeah  |  November 18, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Contact rate goes up, BABIP goes down. Not surprising. And not indicative of bad luck.

    Reply
  • 4. Suzy  |  November 19, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Didn’t Sanberg have 30/30 or were his records set lower at the time?

    Reply
  • 5. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  November 19, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Sandberg never did. Here are his career numbers: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sandbry01.shtml

    Reply

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