Ian Kinsler: The Numbers Behind the Man

Ian Kinsler is arguably one of the most popular Texas Rangers players in recent memory. He’s gritty, has swagger, loves to wear the high socks (as every player should) and is easy on the eyes as far as his female fans are concerned. He’s also known for his negative body language and even had a hashtag (#ikpu) created in his honor last season after what seemed like an inordinate amount of pop-ups. However, one thing is for certain: Ian Kinsler is good at baseball, but just how good?

One thing I can say for certain is that he is the best second baseman in team history, and after signing his new extension this season he will be here even longer and will add to his resume. In all honesty I believe that Kins is currently the best second baseman in the game. Yes, even better than Robinson Cano. A look at their current numbers explains why.

AVG.     R     RBI     E   UZR    fWAR

Ian Kinsler                         .298        26    15      3    1.0        1.3

Robinson Cano                .267        14      4       0    5.5       1.0

Cano has traditionally been thought of as the better offensive player but it appears that may be changing. Kinsler has also been the better of the two defensively until this season though it is still early. Both players are in their age 30 year and considered to be in their prime.

Before Kinsler came along it was argued that Michael Young was the best second baseman in club history. Young has moved around the infield and played every position except pitcher and catcher so I had to narrow down his numbers to just those at second. Here’s a comparison of their careers on the defensive side:

 G           E       UZR

Ian Kinsler                             780        85     6.2

Michael Young                     435        27     -1.2

Yes Kinsler has played more games at second which explains the difference in errors but if you double the number of games for Young then you see he still only has 54 errors. But there’s also Young’s age to consider and his decline in defense. Still, Kinsler has the better UZR as his defensive range is superior. So Kinsler is a better defensive second baseman than Young but where does he stack up on both sides of the ball when compared to the greatest second baseman in team history? For the following I have removed the UZR (as some fans think it’s a meaningless stat) and went with the more traditional fielding percentage. I also chose their best year based on bWAR for the comparisons.

 bWAR       AVG/OBP/OPS       R         RBI      HR      E       FP

Ian Kinsler (2011-29)               5.4            .255/.355/.832     121       77        32      11    .984

Michael Young (2003-26)        1.0            .306/.339/.735     106       72        14       10   .987

Mark McLemore (1996-31)    3.9            .290/.389/.768       84       46          5       12    .985

Julio Franco (1991-32)            6.3            .341/.408/.882     108       78         15       14   .979

Bump Wills (1977-24)              4.9           .287/.361/.771        87      62           9        15   .982

(It’s worth noting that Young’s bWAR was actually higher (1.8) in 2004 though his numbers were down. I chose 2003 because there was only a .8 difference.)

So when looking at the data you can see that Kinsler had the better offensive production hitting in the leadoff position and his defensive numbers were similar to all of the guys listed. Young and Franco had higher batting averages but that’s who they are. So one can make a case for Kins as the best second baseman in franchise history and I would not argue with them.

Just for fun I pulled the stats of the five greatest second baseman in the history of the game, according to the great Bill James, just to see how Kinsler’s 2011 season stacks up.

 bWAR         AVG/OBP/OPS       R       RBI     HR     E      FP

Joe Morgan (1975-31)                  12.0             .327/.466/.974    107    94       17     11    .986

Eddie Collins (1914-27)                11.3             .344/.452/.904     122   85        2*     23    .970

Rogers Hornsby (1924-28)           13.0             .424/.507/1.203  121   94        25      30   .963

Jackie Robinson (1949-30)          10.3             .342/.432/.960     122  124      16      16   .981

Craig Biggio (1997-31)                  9.6             .309/.415/.916      146   81       22      18   .979

(*)Eddie Collins 1914 numbers came in the dead ball era. Two home runs would have been great at that time.

 

What’s amazing is the one thing that separates Kinsler from the above five men is that Kinsler does not hit for average. The power numbers are there along with his ability to score runs as well as drive them in. Keep in mind that Kinsler hits leadoff so he doesn’t have as many RBI chances as others. And I don’t think any second baseman will ever have an offensive year quite like Rogers Hornsby’s. And keep in mind that of those five men only Collins and Biggio ever crossed the 3,000 hit plateau.

Then you have the defensive side of the ball where one look at errors and fielding percentage and it’s evident that he plays at the same level.

Will Kinsler ever crack the top five? No, but if his current level of play continues over the next few years then I could see him being one of the ten greatest to ever field the position joining such recent contemporaries as Ryne Sandberg and Robert Alomar and that’s saying a lot.

So next time you’re watching the Rangers play and you see Ian Kinsler just remember that you’re seeing a special player that doesn’t come along too often.


James Holland is a Senior Columnist for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at James.Holland@shutdowninning.com or@SDIJamesHolland on Twitter.
James Holland

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