There are too many layers to the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers and Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers to write a single, coherent article in summary. Therefore, I’m breaking it up. I wrote about Fielder’s power profile and projection here.
In a general sense, we would expect Ian Kinsler to age pretty well. The better the balance of skills a player possesses when young, the less his performance seems to degrade as he gets old. Prime Kinsler was a second baseman of near-elite defensive ability, with power and speed, who rarely got caught stealing, walked slightly more than a league-average batter and hardly ever struck out. There was nothing he didn’t do well. That augured well.
Alas, in his specific reality, things are a bit less exciting than we might expect. Second basemen don’t tend to age well, which mitigates Kinsler’s balance of skills anyway, but the suddenness of his dropoff in certain respects is surprising even so.
Ian Kinsler, Stolen Bases and Caught Stealing, Career
Ian Kinsler, Baserunning Runs Above Average, Career
Ian Kinsler, Fielding Value, Career
That’s a lot of numbers saying just a few things:
- Kinsler’s legs are going fast. He needs to stop trying to steal bases; he’s hurting his team that way.
- His baserunning acumen remains at least partially intact, but the speed is simply running away from him, so he’s no longer of even positive overall value on the bases.
- Once an elite fielder at second base, he’s now… well, it’s not really clear. This is a compelling case for not taking defensive stats too seriously. Look at all the disagreement between the three major measurement systems on what kind of fielder Kinsler is. In general, I think it’s safe to say that he remains above-average, but it doesn’t look great for him to maintain that as he ages.
The set of numbers that actually interests me more with Kinsler, though, is this one:
Ian Kinsler, Career Batting Splits
Home v. L
Home v. R
Away v. L
Away v. R
Statistically speaking, heavy regression is in order for these numbers. I won’t reproduce the same figures for 2013 or any other season in isolation, but trust me: There aren’t huge fluctuations. In general, I view these splits as real and significant, and just look at them. Kinsler clearly sees the ball better in Texas than elsewhere, or else has tailored his swing to the park in some subtle way. He’s also an attacker of opposite-handed pitching, while tough righties can give him fits.
The way he controls the strike zone leads me to think Kinsler will retain some solid offensive value into his mid-30s. I’m not totally sold on his non-batting value, but the Tigers did succeed in this deal, in that they made a huge upgrade at second base (for however short a time) without suffering a commensurate dropoff at first—since Miguel Cabrera will move across the diamond and take over for Fielder. The question will be whether Kinsler can carry his success at Rangers Ballpark to a new home, because if he’s really had his numbers disproportionately inflated by that friendly environment, the Tigers are in for an unpleasant surprise. Happily, he’s most reliant, for value, on the skill I imagine will suffer least from a venue change: that strikeout-and-walk profile.Next post: The Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler Trade: The Next Step for the Texas Rangers is Unclear, But Exciting
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