Can’t Stir Nothing Into Something

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Before hitting the DL on May 18th, Ian Kinsler was the most valuable player in the Rangers lineup. In 180 plate appearances, he was hitting .302/.369/.869 with 12 walks and 7 homeruns. He scored 24 of the Rangers 193 runs, and drove in 20. May 16th was the last game in which Kinsler participated fully (put in as a pinch runner in the 9th inning on May 17th) before going on the DL. The Rangers were hot and their record was 27-14. Kinsler was leading the Rangers into another spectacular start of the season.
Naturally, Kinsler landing on the disabled list wasn’t thrilling news to Ranger ears. The team did suffer without him. In the 26 games Kinsler did not play (including the one on May 17th), the Rangers went 11-15, including a brutal 6-game losing streak. The Rangers went from batting .267/.331/.778 on May 16th to .255/.313/.719 on June 14th—Kinsler’s last day down. With Kinsler, they had averaged 4.7 runs per game, and without him, 3.8. Elvis Andrus was hitting leadoff, and not doing it very well. He was getting on base at a .288 clip during Kinsler’s absence. Jurickson Profar was brought up, and performed really well, but didn’t have quite the numbers Kinsler did. The Rangers missed their second sacker.

June 15th was the first day back in Arlington for the longest tenured Ranger. He drew a walk in each of his first two games back, but didn’t manage to score or get a hit. The Rangers lost those two games. With a couple of games under Kinsler’s belt, however, the Rangers went on to take 3 out of 4 from the Athletics, and swept the team with the best record in baseball at the time in their own ballpark. During the three games in St. Louis against the Cardinals, the Rangers scored 12 runs, and Ian Kinsler scored 5 of them. He got on base at a .429 clip during that series, and the Rangers looked to have broken out of their slump.

Kinsler has since cooled off. In his last 6 games, he’s gone 2-for-23 and is slugging .217. The Rangers have gone 3-3 in those games, however. Rangers pitching has recorded a 3.00 ERA during those 6 games, including a spectacular complete game 2-hit shutout by Derek Holland. The offense since Kinsler’s return hasn’t been any better than when he was down. Since June 15th, the Rangers dropped to a .222/.286/.586 line, which is worse than they were doing without him, and averaged 3.8 runs per game, but the team has gone 10-7.

A few players on the team will say Kinsler is the reason for the team’s recent success, and that could be true. He hasn’t exactly been stunning since his reinstatement, but Elvis Andrus has made the comment that having him back makes him more comfortable. Although, Elvis’ numbers have also dropped since Kinsler’s return. After a big win on June 19th vs. Oakland, Nelson Cruz was featured on a postgame interview on Fox Sports Southwest where he stated that “whatever [Kinsler] is doing will affect the team.” Cruz’s numbers have increased dramatically since Kinsler’s return, but Cruz is a notoriously streaky player, so this isn’t surprising.

Other players have been far more instrumental since June 15th than Kinsler. Leonys Martin has seen regular playing time, and has posted incredibly numbers since. He’s batting .386/.426/.988 with 4 doubles and 13 runs scored. Martin has had the time to shine, having only not played in one out of the last 17 games, and taken full advantage of it. Nelson Cruz is also performing well during this stretch, posting a .923 OPS with 4 homeruns.

Ian Kinsler is a key player for the Rangers, and I don’t mean to say he doesn’t have an impact. The Rangers win games at a better pace with him than without him. He’s ranked 2nd in rWAR for position players, having just recently been passed by Leonys Martin. The Rangers have a better chance at winning ballgames with him on the team. The team has seemed to be playing with more energy since he’s rejoined them, but that usually comes with winning. With the addition of Engel Beltre and Jurickson Profar, the Rangers also have a better bench to handle. Plus, the Rangers pitching has managed to hold up. I trust the players when they say a guy makes a difference to their team. Ian Kinsler does make a difference. I trust that they are more comfortable with one of the leaders on the team back in action, but it’s not one guy changing everything. It’s one guy helping. Ron Washington said Kins is the “straw that stirs the drink,” and I’d say that’s accurate with all the intangible and tangible ways he helps, but a straw by itself is useless. 

Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach her at Emily.Cates@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.
Emily Cates

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