So Much More Than Pop-Ups

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 8/01/12**

I sat in the stands this past Sunday evening and had to listen to cries of “Don’t screw this up, Kinsler!” and my personal favorite, “Hey Mister Pop-up!” every time Ian Kinsler came up to bat. I can admit I am overly sensitive to the Kinsler hate, but I really don’t understand why it’s always extremely loud and angry all of the time. I also don’t understand why all the Ian Kinsler hate on Twitter gets directed at me. However, what makes the Kinsler hate the most baffling to me is the fact that he’s a good baseball player. The best? No. But good.
Ian Kinsler pops up. Yes, I know. We all know. Ian Kinsler, however, doesn’t strike out a lot. He has a strikeout rate of 12%, which is better than the league average. This means he hits the ball, putting it in play most of the time. He also knows how to work a count, either staying in at-bats long enough to drive up the pitcher’s workload, or drawing a walk and getting on base. As a leadoff hitter, his job is to get on base. These indicators prove he does just that with an OBP of .343 in 2012.

Getting on base is the first step in scoring, right? If you don’t remember, I wrote about that in “Long Live LOB City.” Ian’s aggressiveness and speed on the bases helps with the next step – getting over. He’s been consistently one of the best on the Rangers in stealing bases, and if he could’ve stayed healthy every year, he’d have even more. Including two 30-30 seasons in the past three years, he leads all Rangers in stolen bases in the last six. You want successful aggressiveness on the base paths, and he’s got it. He’s scored 70 runs this year, which is tied for 2nd in the MLB only trailing Mike Trout. If he’s on, there’s a good chance he’s coming home.

What I rarely hear, though, is criticism of Ian Kinsler’s defense. He has great range and makes plays using back-handed throws to Elvis or insane diving catches, and no one seems to question it. This season, he’s seen a decline in his defense from 2011. He’s currently worth negative runs saved and committed twelve errors, which is more than all of last season and six away from his career high. His defense could use a bit of an upgrade, while his bat is generally where you’d always expect it to be.

Of course there’s the hustle argument, which will never get settled. Trying to run out a routine ground ball where the out is almost guaranteed seems futile, but maybe if he ran a bit faster he’d put pressure on the fielder to make a perfect play. That’s the argument at least. Kinsler has speed, but he’s not fast enough to run out the routine groundouts, and why risk injury when he’s prone to disabled list stints? And of course, there’s the body language issue, where I’ll never understand how getting mad at himself for a pop-up (not a flyout, by the way – those are two different things) makes him seem nonchalant. He gets mad because he cares about his performance. I want my players to care about their performance.

Maybe I am an Ian Kinsler apologist. However, there’s more to baseball than batting averages. Kinsler’s batting average is rarely spectacular, recording just one above .300 season, in 2008. His good traits are his abilities to get on base and score runs, which is the ultimate baseball goal. Look, I’m not saying he’s perfect. He has a temper I wish he’d control, and the pop-ups do get frustrating, but in this July Rangers slump, he’s one of the guys still producing. In a low-scoring July, Ian has scored ten runs, and has a .371 OBP. He also has the fifth-highest fWAR on the team this season with a 2.7. Pop-ups will happen, get used to them. There’s so much more to Ian Kinsler than the pop-ups.

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

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