2015 Year in Review
|154||675||4.2||111||.296||.323||.321||.342||.428||6.4%||11.9%||10 / 6||19||8.4|
For the second year in a row, Kinsler had an incredibly productive season for the Tigers, playing nearly every day while leading the club in plate appearances from the top of the order. He didn’t quite equal his win total of 2014, but was still worth more than four wins, and provided the Tigers a dangerous hitter at the top of the lineup.
Offensively, Kinsler was largely the same player he was the year before, with the caveat that he raised his average nearly 30 points, thanks to a more than 30-point jump in his average on balls in play, which was higher than his career average, but not outside the expected result given his balls in play ratio for xBAbip. His walk rate did jump a bit, but still lags behind what you’d look for in an ideal leadoff hitter, as even with a nearly .300 average, his on-base rate was just .342. Power-wise he did see a slight decline in his ISO, down to .13, a decline from where he was in prior years but not unexpected for a player that turns 34 in June.
While his power game has shown signs of decline with age, the good news for the Tigers is that his athleticism has been sound, resulting in well above average defensive metrics. A plus second basemen, Kinsler was once again worth nearly two wins for his defense alone with 19 runs saved. He also swiped ten bases in 16 attempts, which isn’t the best success rate of 63%, and should be something to watch moving forward if the struggles and limits continue.
2016 Player Projections
Despite his increasing age, both projection services are optimistic that won’t impact Kinsler’s ability to stay on the field, as both peg him for roughly 650 plate appearances, the equivalent of playing virtually every day. They both expect him to maintain a walk rate that will produce an on-base percentage roughly 40 points higher than his average, and check in with an ISO in the .13-.14 range, nothing groundbreaking given the consistency he’s shown over the course of his career.
Both expect a continued decline in his overall productivity, but they differ in how much. Steamer forecasts a pretty significant drop, coming in as a player worth less than three wins, which would be a pretty steep decline for a player that was worth over five wins two seasons ago. ZiPS isn’t as down on him, expecting his defense to hold closer to what he did in 2014/2015, along with a wOBA ten points higher than Steamer, resulting in a projected 3.5 WAR.
The TigsTown Take
Since being acquired by the Tigers two years ago in exchange for Prince Fielder, Kinsler has been incredibly productive for the Tigers, being the club’s unquestioned everyday second baseman, and providing over nine wins above replacement over the two seasons. Compare that to Fielder, who missed most of 2014, and then had a solid offensive season in 2015, but paired with terrible defense, and he’s been worth only about one win over two years. Each player still has a few years left, but it’s hard to see this deal not working out very well in the Tigers favor.
Meanwhile, forecasts are a bit down on Kinsler, but the baseline trending down might be a little too harsh on Kinsler. Physically, he appears to be in as good of shape as he’s ever been, and there’s been no signs of offensive decline this spring, hitting .333 entering Sunday’s game in 33 at-bats.
Unless you believe Kinsler’s defense is about to hit a major dropoff, or his average on balls in play is going to regress to the point that it pulls the rest of his production down, it’s hard to see Kinsler not being a four-win player once again this year. That production will be key for the Tigers hoped revival this season.
2016 Projections come from two different sources; ZiPS, and Steamer, both publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, and Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers.