By Tommy Rancel //
Ian Kinsler is having one of the best seasons in baseball that no one is talking about. The Texas Rangers second baseman has smashed 65 extra-base hits – including 28 home runs – with 24 steals and has played fantastic defense at the keystone position. The main reason nobody is talking about Kinsler as a top-5 MVP candidate is a .253 batting average which is a no-no in the mind of award voters.
As you know by now, batting average is a misleading statistic. Although Kinsler’s average is more than 20 points below his career average, his .352 on-base percentage is almost a match of his career .355 mark. Despite the dip in average, Kinsler has maintained a healthy OBP because of a 12% walk rate. He is also striking out at the lowest rate of his career.
Commonly, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is used as a crutch for luck. Is your batting average down? Maybe you’ve been unlucky with BABIP. Hitting out of your mind? The luck dragons have showered you with good fortune. It is important to look at other things related to BABIP before declaring it just blind luck.
In Kinsler’s case, he has improved his plate discipline while maintaining a similar batted-ball profile. His line drive rate, groundball rate, and flyball rate are all within two percent of his career levels. Yet, his .243 BABIP is 40 points lower than his career .283 average. Considering the lack of movement in batted-ball data and the better discipline, it looks like Kinsler has a case of the bad mojo this season more than any fundamental flaw in his game.
The good news is BABIP tends to regress toward career levels, meaning Kinsler’s 2012 season should be even better than his 2011 season. If you have Kinser in a keeper league, and have been disappointed by the average, relax. He has above-average power for his position. He’s turned into one of the more disciplined hitters in the league. He swipes 25-30 steals a season. Oh, and he is a prime candidate for positive batting average regression next season. If you can pry Kinsler away from his current owner or participate in non-keeper leagues, put Kinsler near the top of your 2012 wish list, ignoring preseason projections or perceptions based on a .250 average.
For more on potential 2012 bargains, check out Bloomberg Sports.