Kinsler averages more than 21 (21.5) stole bases per year, with two seasons in which he even eclipsed the 30 mark. However, he is not the only Tiger that brings speed to the lineup, as center fielder Austin Jackson has also been blessed with natural quickness, but has seen his stolen base production dramatically decrease in recent years.
But when Fielder headed down to the Lone Star State, Jackson saw his chances of stealing more bases in 2014 increase because the Tigers are now moving away from slugging their way to a championship to now playing better, more complete baseball.
Jackson stole 27 and 22 bases during his first two seasons in the Majors in 2010 and 2011, however, that input has dropped down to 12 and eight bases for the last two seasons, respectively. Obviously he has the speed to steal bags, as some of the highlights of him chasing down balls in the the outfield can attest to how quick he still is. So, why has his stolen base numbers fallen instead of risen?
It can probably be attributed to Jackson hitting at the top of the lineup with big bats waiting to come to the plate behind him in Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Detroit would not want him to get on base and then possibly get himself thrown out and waste scoring opportunities with some of the most dangerous hitters in the AL coming up to bat after him. Now, with Kinsler batting lead off, Jackson has been bumped lower in the order, which will require him to have to create his own scoring opportunities with less talented hitters coming up to bat after him. This will directly result in Jackson being more aggressive on the base paths to give the weaker hitters the best opportunity to drive him in for a run.
Plus, now that he is hitting fifth in the lineup, he will bat behind the two best home run hitters on the team in Cabrera and Victor Martinez. If those guys do their job by hitting the ball out of the park, then that will clear up a lot of space on the base paths for Jackson to be able to run wild.
Jackson has too much speed and overall athleticism to be held to such low stolen base numbers. With a new coaching staff that seems more geared towards speed and small-ball, and with his new spot in the lineup, look out for Jackson to return to getting at least more than 20 stolen bases in 2014.