Note: The following was actually scheduled to go up yesterday, but that ended up not happening. All statistics have been updated accordingly.
Due to fans being on one side of the fence or the other as it relates to Ian Kinsler, I feel like I need to make this point clear right up front: I like Ian Kinsler.
As a matter of fact, Kinsler finds himself among my list of players that I hope to never see play in anything but a Texas Rangers uniform. I think he's very talented, athletic, and brings a ton of potential to any lineup he's in. And that word, "potential", is the very reason I'm writing this right now.
Ian Kinsler isn't having a bad season by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to second basemen, you could certainly do worse than Kinsler. Then again, over the past few years, we've begun to see better offensive performance on the whole from the position. Nonetheless, he's a player that you could literally plug into any spot in the lineup in a pinch and see a big game. His 8 defensive runs saved in 2013 -- if you're into such numbers -- ranks 6th among second basemen.
So Ian Kinsler is a good player. With that said, the Texas Rangers need more from him during this September strech and (hopefully) beyond. Last night in a 5-1 victory in Oakland, Kinsler helped provide a spark in the middle of the lineup. He put together 2 hits, scored a run, and had a stolen base. For Texas, the hope is that he'll begin a hot streak.
So far in 2013, Ian Kinsler's power and base stealing numbers have left something to be desired. He has 13 stolen bases, but has been caught 9 times. Most of us realize that part of this is simply bad luck, but given that it's become somewhat of a season-long trend, there's definitely something to it. Perhaps he's not getting a good first step. Perhaps he's just really been in the unfortunate position to get caught by a good catcher all season. Whatever the case, Kinsler needs to continue being aggressive and, hopefully, throw in some extra value on the bases.
As far as the power goes, I simply don't have an explanation for why a guy that has the ability to hit 30 home runs in a season has, for the most part, failed to hit with any significant power this season. I did notice something I hadn't noticed for most of the season as far as his batting stance is concerned.
On the left, you have Kinsler in the box back in 2011, when he hit 32 home runs. On the right, you see Kinsler this season. He's opened his stance and dropped the bat a bit. I can't seem to correlate any of this to reduced power numbers based on statistics, but it's worth noting at least.
Kinsler has 11 home runs so far, and one never left the park as he rounded the bases before Dayan Viciedo could find the ball against the left field wall. The home run numbers themselves aren't concerning, but at the same time, he's walked at a lower rate than he's capable of. That's partially due to the way he's pitched, but something's got to give. Kinsler's isolated power of .134 is below the Major League average.
The good news is this: Kinsler has been good with men in scoring position this season with a .773 OPS with the only downside being that his OPS sits at .488 in what Fangraphs defines as high-leverage situations.
In the end, it comes down to needing Ian Kinsler to be something closer resembling his offensive numbers from a stellar 2011 season than what he has been so far this season. If I didn't think it could happen, or if I didn't think he was capable of at least that much as we head into the final stretch of the season, I wouldn't be writing this right now.
I do think he's capable of doing so, and in fact, I'm expecting to see some of that as we head into the final part of the baseball calendar. It goes without saying that this Rangers ball club is better with Ian Kinsler on it, and to go even further, he can be the most important piece in the lineup at times, which is why I'm glad he's on our side. I'd like to hope that when we look back on the 2013 season, we can talk about how Ian Kinsler got hot and helped propel this team on a special kind of run we'd all like to see.
There is no Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, or even Nelson Cruz until, at the very least, the playoffs. No matter, because Ian Kinsler is more than capable of having a special kind of streak of his own.
There's no better time to start than now. Or last night. Or every game going forward.