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Ian Kinsler, Future HoMEr

Ian Kinsler, 2016Guys sneak up on you sometimes. For me that’s the way Adrian Beltre did it. Ian Kinsler too. What I’m going to do in this post is to outline what I think will become a HoME-worthy career for the Tiger second sacker before it’s all said and done.

Kinsler reached the majors in 2006 at the age of 24. And he didn’t come in guns ablazing, posting just 1.9 WAR and finishing seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. A sophomore campaign where he was solid in every aspect led to 4.1 WAR and showed what type of player Kinsler would be for years to come. In 2008 he made his first All-Star team and posted another 4.7 WAR. In 2009 he smashed 31 home runs and put up 6.0 WAR. The next year was injury-riddled. Still, Kinsler posted 4.0 more WAR. His best year was 2011 when he hit 32 long balls and totaled 7.1 WAR. Another 2.4 WAR in 2012 and 5.0 in 2013 ended his time in Texas.

November of 2013 the Rangers did something stupid and shipped the expensive but still very good Kinsler to Detroit for the more expensive and considerably less good prince Fielder. In Texas’ defense, they did have both Rougned Odor and Jurickson Profar knocking at the door. On the other hand, Prince Fielder stinks. In Detroit, the beat kept on. Kinsler posted 5.7 WAR in 2014 and another 6.0 in 2015. As I type this, the four-time All Star is at 3.2 WAR through the first 73 games of the 2016 season.

Kinsler Today

Let’s look at where he stands among some similar hitters right now, this time using my adjustments for length of season, DRA, and a couple of other things. These are Kinsler’s first eleven seasons including this partial one (unadjusted), and they’re the top eleven seasons for the other players.

               1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11
Ian Kinsler   7.1  6.6  6.1  5.7  5.1  4.9  4.2  3.8  3.2  3.0  2.4
John McGraw   8.5  7.7  6.6  6.3  5.7  5.5  4.1  3.4  1.7  0.9  0.7
Frank Chance  7.8  7.5  6.4  6.3  5.0  4.2  3.9  2.3  2.1  2.0  1.6
Sam Thompson  7.5  6.5  6.1  5.5  5.0  4.4  3.9  3.6  3.3  3.3  1.9
Heinie Groh   7.3  6.1  5.9  5.6  5.5  4.7  3.7  3.7  3.6  3.5  2.0
Minnie Minoso 8.4  6.5  6.2  5.4  5.2  5.1  4.7  3.9  3.3  3.2  2.1 

A few of these comps are Hall of Famers, though none are in the HoME as players. But they’re all really, really close. Kinsler is in this group already. And though he’s 34 now and could become mediocre or worse in a hurry, as of now there’s no sign of slowing down.

A Fun Aside

Few things offer more joy in this world than the Play Index at BBREF. Of course, as much as it can be used for good, it can also be used for evil. So with that caveat in mine, here are all of the players in baseball history who can match Kinsler in OBP, HR, SB, and Rfield.

Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. That’s it.

A Look at Second Base

As of now, I rank Kinsler 26th all-time among second basemen. Let’s take a closer look at two guys above him and the two right below him. Three are Hall of Famers but not HoMErs. The other, Jeff Kent, is in the HoME but not the Hall.

               1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13  rest
Jeff Kent     7.3  7.2  5.3  5.1  4.3  3.9  3.9  3.7  3.4  2.9  2.7  2.3  2.3  4.2
Bobby Doerr   6.7  6.5  5.7  5.5  5.2  5.0  4.3  4.2  3.8  3.0  2.6  2.5  2.2 -0.4
Ian Kinsler   7.1  6.6  6.1  5.7  5.1  4.9  4.2  3.8  3.4  3.0  2.4  
Johnny Evers  6.6  6.5  5.5  5.0  4.3  3.9  3.9  3.9  3.5  3.4  2.6  1.2  0.8  1.5
Tony Lazzeri  7.8  6.2  5.6  5.0  4.6  4.0  3.7  3.1  3.0  2.6  2.1  1.1  0.9  0.8

You may choose to see what you like in the chart above. Some will see that second basemen really don’t get in more than about a dozen seasons. Others will see that this particular group of second basemen, those on the HoME borderline, don’t get in more than about a dozen seasons.

Of course, even if Kinsler contributes in only twelve seasons, he still has another one and a half left. Let’s regress Kinsler pretty hard the rest of this year and see where he ends up. He’s posted 3.2 WAR in less than half a season so far. That number, I’ll admit is higher than my adjusted number would be if the season were through today, as DRA doesn’t like his glove so far in 2016 as much as Rfield does. And that makes sense. Not many 34-year-old second basemen are plus defenders. But let’s just say Kinsler puts up 1.8 more WAR in the second half of the season, good for 5.0 on the campaign. That’ll make him one of only eighteen players at the position with six All-Star type seasons. Thirteen of them are already in the HoME. The others are Robinson Cano, who’s going, Chase Utley, who might be going, and Fred Dunlap, who’s not. So there’s nothing definitive there, but it’s a good sign.

Kinsler’s Comps

Let me ignore the best five second basemen in history and then look to see what other retired guys above Kinsler have had left after their last 5 WAR season, which we presume will be 2016 for him.

                 Age   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9     Total  
Willie Randolph   25  2.7  3.7  3.1  3.9  4.0  4.6  4.7  1.9  etc.  40.2
Billy Herman      29  3.1  3.4  2.4  4.8  3.6 -0.2                  17.1
Bid McPhee        33  4.4  3.9  3.6  2.0  1.7  1.5                  17.0
Frankie Frisch    32  4.9  1.4  4.1  3.0  2.1  1.2 -0.1             16.6
Hardy Richardson  31  4.3  2.7  4.3  3.2  1.1  0.6                  16.1
Bobby Grich       32  4.3  4.6  2.7  2.2  2.1                       15.9
Jeff Kent         35  3.4  3.9  4.3  1.8  2.3  0.1                  15.9
Lou Whitaker      34  4.6  4.4  4.0  2.3                            15.2
Craig Biggio      32  4.1  1.1  3.0  0.4  2.2  1.3  3.1 0.4 -1.2    14.4
Jackie Robinson   34  4.3  3.4  4.3                                 11.9 
Cupid Childs      29  3.5  2.5  0.8  1.9                             8.7
Tony Phillips     36  4.0  2.3  0.4  1.8                             8.6
Ryne Sandberg     32  4.3  1.2  2.2  0.6                             8.3
Fred Dunlap       27  2.3  2.7  1.2 -1.8  0.7                        6.1
Ross Barnes       26  0.6  2.9  2.4                                  5.9
Joe Gordon        33  3.4  1.8                                       5.2
Roberto Alomar    33  0.6 -0.5 -0.4                                 -0.3

Okay, let’s remove the outliers. Randolph is gone because of how early his last 5-WAR season was. Same with Barnes. Alomar is an extreme outlier as well, yet he’s also a cautionary tale of how uncertain baseball can be. I’m going to remove Childs and Dunlap too, both because of age and era. And I’ll dump Biggio because of how long he played. So let’s see what’s remaining.

                 Age   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9     Total  
Billy Herman      29  3.1  3.4  2.4  4.8  3.6 -0.2                  17.1
Bid McPhee        33  4.4  3.9  3.6  2.0  1.7  1.5                  17.0
Frankie Frisch    32  4.9  1.4  4.1  3.0  2.1  1.2 -0.1             16.6
Hardy Richardson  31  4.3  2.7  4.3  3.2  1.1  0.6                  16.1
Bobby Grich       32  4.3  4.6  2.7  2.2  2.1                       15.9
Jeff Kent         35  3.4  3.9  4.3  1.8  2.3  0.1                  15.9
Lou Whitaker      34  4.6  4.4  4.0  2.3                            15.2
Jackie Robinson   34  4.3  3.4  4.3                                 11.9 
Tony Phillips     36  4.0  2.3  0.4  1.8                             8.6
Ryne Sandberg     32  4.3  1.2  2.2  0.6                             8.3
Joe Gordon        33  3.4  1.8                                       5.2

So of our remaining eleven second basemen, six had their last 5-WAR season within a year of where Kinsler is now. All but Billy Herman and Hardy Richardson were within two years. So actually, eliminating those two as comparable players seems like a wise move.

                 Age   1    2    3    4    5    6    7   8    9     Total  
Bid McPhee        33  4.4  3.9  3.6  2.0  1.7  1.5                  17.0
Frankie Frisch    32  4.9  1.4  4.1  3.0  2.1  1.2 -0.1             16.6
Bobby Grich       32  4.3  4.6  2.7  2.2  2.1                       15.9
Jeff Kent         35  3.4  3.9  4.3  1.8  2.3  0.1                  15.9
Lou Whitaker      34  4.6  4.4  4.0  2.3                            15.2
Jackie Robinson   34  4.3  3.4  4.3                                 11.9 
Tony Phillips     36  4.0  2.3  0.4  1.8                             8.6
Ryne Sandberg     32  4.3  1.2  2.2  0.6                             8.3
Joe Gordon        33  3.4  1.8                                       5.2

Now this is a good list of comps!

What’s He Got Left?

The average age of our comps is 33.4. The average number of years left after the final 5-WAR season is 4.6. Since Kinsler is a bit older than the average, let’s give him just four more seasons.

The average remaining WAR for our second basemen is 12.7, and all had a season of at least 3.4 WAR left in their careers, though it’s notable and fairly predictable that all but two had their best remaining season right after their last 5-WAR season.

Given our other nine players, it seems fair and conservative to give Kinsler 3.4 WAR next year. Then things get trickier. The second best remaining seasons average 3.5 WAR, but the range goes from 4.4 down to 1.8. Let’s again be conservative and give Kinsler the seventh highest (third lowest) WAR in the second of his four remaining seasons. That adds 2.3 more.

Next, I’m going to ignore everyone’s third best season post-5-WAR in order to determine Kinsler’s next to last campaign. By doing that, Jackie Robinson and Joe Gordon are out of years. Of those with remaining totals, they range from 2.3 down to 0.4. The median including Robinson and Gordon is 2.0. Let’s give Kinsler that in 2019.

And for his final year, I’m going to look at the final year of the seven remaining second basemen. They averaged 1.0 WAR, so that’s exactly what I’m going to give Kinsler.
That means I’m having him finish out like this:

2016   5.0
2017   3.4
2018   2.3
2019   2.0
2020   1.0

What’s It All Mean?

Remember, I’m being plenty conservative here. While our comps put up an average of 12.7 WAR over the remainder of their careers, I’m giving Kinsler just 8.7 WAR over the rest of his.

Given a total of 5.0 WAR this year and those 8.7 over the next four, Kinsler would total 48.11 career MAPES points, which means nothing in a vacuum. Adding some context, he’d move past Fred Dunlap, Bobby Doerr, Jeff Kent, Hardy Richardson, Tony Phillips, Billy Herman, Cupid Childs, and probably Chase Utley. He’d wind up #16 on the all-time list. There would be no non-HoMErs in front of him and three at the position behind him.

He’d also be ahead of HoMErs Sal Bando, Roy White, Dave Bancroft, Jose Cruz, Willie Davis, Reggie Smith, Max Carey, Joe Sewell, Jimmy Wynn, Zach Wheat, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire. The only two position players with higher MAPES totals than Kinsler’s 48.11 would be Ned Williamson (48.19) and Jake Beckley (48.62). In short, accepting a fairly conservative estimate of the remainder of Ian Kinsler’s career, it’s nearly certain that he will one day be a member of the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Miller

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Ian Kinsler, Future HoMEr

  1. Thank you. Kinsler is one of those players that traditionally get overlooked but by the time they finish end up in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. Nice to see someone take him seriously.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | July 6, 2016, 8:19 am

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  1. Pingback: Mid-Season Update, Infield | the Hall of Miller and Eric - July 10, 2017

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