The answer is very good. Debatably elite.
If Ian Kinsler isn’t the spitting image of the type of player we want to focus on, then who is?
He ranged from good, to very good, to great/elite for about 12 straight seasons.
In Texas, he made his name as the type of player others hated playing against and loved playing with. Now, he’s back with the Rangers as a special assistant to the GM.
In his time with the Rangers, he earned three All-Star nods and held several club records for a second baseman with a .273 batting average, 156 home runs, and 539 RBIs over 1,066 games between 2006-13.
He also ranks top 10 among all Rangers players in the following categories:
- Stolen bases (second, 172)
- Runs (sixth, 748)
- Extra base hits (seventh, 428)
- Walks (seventh, 462)
- Home runs (eighth, 156)
- Doubles (eighth, 249)
- Total bases (eighth, 1,908)
- Multi-Hit games (eighth, 335)
Additionally, he holds the team record for both games started (662) and home runs (109) from the leadoff spot, and home runs to leadoff the first inning (29).
Simply put, he is hands down the best second baseman in Rangers history.
As we examine his career as a whole, let’s split it up by team:
Kinsler immediately made his mark. Kinsler finished 7th in Rookie of the Year voting — a pitcher for the Tigers named Justin Verlander finished 1st.
He hit 14 home runs and stole 11 bases while hitting .286. A solid contributor in his rookie year, the stage was set for him to ascend to stardom quickly after.
Between 2007-08, Kinsler hit .292 with 48 home runs and 132 stolen bases. In 2008, he earned his first All-Star appearance, even garnering a few MVP votes along the way. He also had back-to-back seasons with a 4.0+ WAR — 4.1 in 2007 and 4.7 in 2008.
While Kinsler was not a superstar yet, it was clear the Rangers had a really good player at second base.
To this point, the Rangers team had not been successful since Kinsler arrived in the big leagues, but that would change soon.
In 2009, Kinsler was exceptional. He might not have been on an All-Star team that year, but by all means, he was an All-Star.
It was the best season of his career to date and the first of two 30/30 seasons. He finished the season with 31 home runs and 31 stolen bases, and a WAR of 6.0.
The Rangers were improving, too. While they weren’t a playoff team that season, they had a winning record for the first time with Kinsler, going 87-75.
Kinsler battled injuries for much of the 2010 season. He sprained his ankle towards the end of spring training, missing much of the first month as a result. He then hurt his groin in August.
In 2010, he played in just 103 games, making his 4.0 WAR on the year that much more impressive. Kinsler still managed an All-Star appearance, too.
The Rangers finally made the playoffs for the first time with Kinsler on the team. In the first round vs. the Rays, Kinsler went on a tear. In 5 games, he hit .444 with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs.
Ultimately making it to the World Series, the Rangers would lose to the San Francisco Giants in 5 games.
2011 was the best season of Kinsler’s career — period. Exclamation point.
He had his second 30/30 season, hitting 32 home runs and stealing 30 bases. By the end of the season, he accumulated a 7.0 WAR and finished 11th in MVP voting.
Unsurprisingly, Kinsler’s superstar season spurred the best record by the Rangers during his tenure. They went 96-66, finishing first in the AL West.
Kinsler was great throughout the playoffs, as the Rangers took down the Rays in four games in the ALDS and the Tigers in six games in the ALCS.
The 2011 World Series between the Rangers and Cardinals is one of the most exciting in recent memory and maybe of all time. The Game 6, where David Freese famously hit a two-run triple to tie the game in the ninth and then won it with a solo homer in the 11th, is one of the better baseball games — ever.
The Rangers eventually lost in seven games, but Kinsler certainly put his best foot forward, hitting .360 with a .500 on-base percentage during the World Series.
2012 was not Kinsler’s best season. He earned his third All-Star appearance but finished the season with a 2.4 WAR, the lowest since his rookie year.
The Rangers went 93-69, finishing second in the AL West. They lost to the Orioles in the AL Wild Card game, which would end up being the last playoff game of his Rangers career.
Kinsler rebounded in 2013, finishing the year with a 5.0 WAR season. The Rangers had another good season, winning 91 games, but the Tigers (93-69) won the AL west, and the Rangers missed the playoffs altogether.
Following the 2013 season, a trade sent Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder, closing the book on his time with the Rangers.
Kinsler spent four seasons with the Tigers and continued playing at an All-Star level for three of them.
His first season in Detroit saw Kinsler make his fourth and final All-Star team. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 92 runs but got on base at an extremely low clip (.307 OBP). He accumulated a 5.0 WAR that season, his second straight at 5.0 or above.
The Tigers had a nice season, too. They went 90-72 but lost in the first round to the Baltimore Orioles.
2015 was another solid year for Kinsler, as he produced a 4.7 WAR — but he saw his power numbers drop as he hit just 11 home runs.
In 2016, he had an excellent season — the last truly elite season of his career. Not only was his stat line exceptional — .288/.348/.831, 28 home runs, 83 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases — but he also won his first career Gold Glove.
Unfortunately, despite a solid 86-75 record, the Tigers missed the playoffs.
His final season in Detroit came in 2017. He still had some power, evidenced by his 22 home runs, but his on-base skills fell off a cliff, and he lost some effectiveness. He remained an above-average player, just not the elite player we had become familiar with.
His time in Detroit was largely a success — at least from an individual standpoint. He produced a 17.4 WAR during his four seasons there, along with the numbers below.
The Final Years
After the 2017 season, the Tigers shipped Kinsler to the Angels in exchange for a couple of prospects. Kinsler got off to a great start there — hitting 13 home runs and accumulating a 2.5 WAR in 91 games.
With the Angels struggling, however, they moved him to the Red Sox at the deadline.
The trade produced mixed results for Kinsler, who struggled mightily during 37 games in Boston. He hit just 1 home run and produced a -0.1 WAR.
He did hit .308 in the ALDS vs. the Yankees that season but again struggled throughout the rest of the playoffs.
By the end of the World Series, all struggles were forgotten as the Red Sox were the last team standing, and Kinsler hoisted his first World Series trophy.
Kinsler also earned his second and final Gold Glove for the Angels / Red Sox in 2018.
He spent his final season with the Padres in 2019. He played 87 games for them and produced a -0.7 WAR…. Not great.
While his play clearly fell off during these two years, particularly starting in the second half of 2018, he did complete the ultimate goal of winning a World Series.
Wrapping It Up
In the end, Kinsler had one of those careers that is not quite Hall of Fame level but is also objectively very, very good. The numbers below reflect just that.
He is beloved in Texas for his accomplishments there and for the major role he played on the two teams that made the World Series in 2010 and 2011. He is also remembered quite well by Tigers fans for his time there.
When he gets on the ballot in 2024, it will be interesting to see if Kinsler at least gets the requisite 5% of votes to stay on for a 2nd year.
He is one of just five-second basemen to have 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases, a nice little nugget for voters. Plus, the second base is perpetually underrepresented in the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps a few factors like this impact voters, and he gets to 5%, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Kinsler was awesome in his own right.
A Hall of Famer? Not quite. A very good player? Absolutely.
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