Playing on his 32nd birthday, Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler went 3-for-5 in the Tigers’ 10-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians yesterday afternoon, raising his slash line on the season to a very healthy .294/.326/.462 with 23 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 35 RBIs. He was once again batting leadoff, which is where he has been doing his finest work this season.
After yesterday, Kinsler is now batting .320/.351/.497 in 181 at-bats in the leadoff spot, compared to a significantly lower .254/.290/.410 in 122 at-bats in the two-hole. As time goes on, it is becoming more and more evident that he is the Tigers’ best option at leadoff.
When Kinsler is not batting leadoff, Rajai Davis will typically be up there. Davis has been a decent leadoff man, batting .281/.326/.375 with two home runs, nine RBIs and 13 stolen bases in that spot. However, Kinsler is clearly the better option, and for whatever reason, his numbers seem to take a dive when he is batting second. The team also seems to play better when Kinsler is batting leadoff.
Moreover, Torii Hunter does his best work in the two-hole (although he has been nursing a bad hamstring and has not been playing lately), and placing Kinsler in the leadoff spot allows manager Brad Ausmus to keep Hunter in the spot in which he performs best. For a quick comparison, Hunter is batting .281/.306/.519 when batting second, but he is only hitting .256/.274/.341 in the five-hole.
Therefore, when he is healthy again, there is no reason that Kinsler and Hunter should not be batting first and second respectively in most games. The emergence of J.D. Martinez has also given the Tigers the formidable No. 5 hitter they have been yearning for the entire year, lessening the need to move Hunter back down there. The Tigers’ outfield, however, will become crowded when Andy Dirks returns, and it remains to be seen how that will all work out.
At any rate, ever since the Tigers left Lakeland, Fla. and opened up the season on Mar. 31, Kinsler has been the catalyst of the offense. When he is going well, the team seems to follow suit. He should clearly be the leadoff man in most games, if not all.