Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler reached the 30-30 plateau twice in his eight-year tenure with the Texas Rangers. He first did it back in 2009 during his age-27 season, and did it once again in 2011 during his age-29 season.
Since Kinsler has reached the age of 30, his home run and stolen base totals have been on the decline. In 2012, he hit just 19 home runs compared to the 32 he hit in 2011, and stole 21 bases which was down from the 30 he stole the year before. Furthermore, he was also caught trying to steal more than twice as many times in 2012 as he was in 2011.
The trend continued in 2013 as Kinsler hit just 13 homers, stole 15 bases and was thrown out an eyebrow-raising 11 times. Kinsler certainly appears to have lost a step, and he will now be playing his home games in spacious Comerica Park. Therefore, the answer to the question of whether or not Kinsler could ever hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season again should be an obvious no, right?
Not so fast. It may be unlikely, but it is not entirely inconceivable. Although playing in the steamy Rangers Ballpark in Arlington can certainly boost a player’s power numbers, consistently playing in 100 degree heat can be very draining on a player as well. Perhaps Kinsler will find playing in Comerica Park to be refreshing, and will therefore have more energy as the season goes on.
Moreover, although Comerica Park is not the friendliest hitter’s park in MLB, other parks in the AL Central are more amenable to the long ball. The Tigers will be playing a lot of games at Progressive Field, which is the Cleveland Indians‘ home park, as well as the Chicago White Sox‘ U.S. Cellular Field, and both are great hitter’s parks. Kinsler should easily be able to reach the seats in either of those places.
However, by all accounts, the Tigers do not need Kinsler to hit 30 home runs this year and he will most likely not be trying to. Kinsler has recently expressed a desire to return to being the type of line-drive hitter he was when he first came up with the Rangers back in 2006, and that is where his focus should stay. One of the few things that Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has carved in stone is that Kinsler will be batting in one of the top two spots in the order, and the Tigers are going to need him to focus on getting on base.
It should also be noted that during each of Kinsler’s 30-30 seasons, he batted in the .250 range despite having a low strikeout rate. The Tigers are most likely going to want to see him hit for a higher average.
Kinsler is said to have lost 20 pounds this offseason, and hopes to reboot his base-stealing ability. However, 30 stolen bases may seem quite out of reach for Kinsler as well, as that would mean he would have to double his total from last season. That said, he probably has a better chance to steal 30 bases in 2014 than he does of hitting 30 home runs if one had to guess.
Although it would not be impossible for Kinsler to have another 30-30 season, he should not try to. Kinsler should be focused on hitting the ball to all fields, taking walks, driving the ball through the gaps and getting on base for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Kinsler still hits a lot of doubles as he had 31 last year and 42 back in 2012. It is very possible that he could reach the 40 mark once again in 2014 by frequently splitting the gaps in Comerica Park, which is exactly what he should be looking to do. It would be great if Kinsler could just hit .280-.300 with an OBP of .340 or better, 12-15 home runs and roughly 20 stolen bases. These are a realistic set of goals he could aim for.
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