What If: Ian Kinsler
Let’s talk about what went wrong with this season. After a torrid start Ian Kinsler went crap. What went wrong.
In most area’s Ian Kinsler improved. He swung at less pitches out of the zone, more pitches in the zone, and made contact with more of the pitches he swung at. Clearly nothing wrong in that. He struck out at a slightly higher but still very good rate, and improved his walk rate.
Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) went from .339 to .245, and became one of the worst in the league. That means every ball that wasn’t a homer or strike out had a 24.5% chance to be a hit. This stat is supposed to be mostly luck based, BUT, there seems to be a big reason for Kinsler’s titanic slide.
In 2009 he hit 25.2% line drives (negating homers), which is spanktastic. With that, he hit 33.8% ground balls and 40.7% fly balls. Line drives usually result in hits. Flyballs usually don’t, but that’s where homers come from, so they’re still good. Groundballs get more hits than flyballs. With league average BABIP on each of those hit types, he’d have an xBABIP (expected BABIP) of .318. So his .339 was either slightly lucky or he’d hit balls harder than average making them harder to field.
In 2009 his flyball percentage (including homers) went from 43.3 to 54. It’s clear that he’s developed a huge uppercut, so it’s not surprising that he produced more homers and less overall hits. The result is his xBABIP became a much lower .270. So his 245 is unlucky looking, but he still deserved a lower batting average than last year. It’s also possible that he deserved more homers than he got. I could attempt to justify that claim, which would also result in a slightly higher average than 270, but I’m not going to.
Overall I like the 2008 Kinsler better, but I’ll take the benefit of 2009’s plate discipline improvement. So I’m hoping for a line drive hitter who occasionally knocks one out, with a batting average of 300+, with around 20-25 homers.