In a move to keep an upcoming free agent after this season, the Texas Rangers signed Ian Kinsler to a 5-year, $75M extension with an option in 2018. While giving such a large amount of money to a 30-34 year-old player with injury history is a bit risky, Kinsler’s talent should more than exceed the cost.
Kinsler has found different ways to produce in the major leagues, but they’ve all been successful. Early in his career, his defense was poor, but that has turned around the past three seasons. Offensively, he’s had peripherals all over the place. He’s always been a flyball hitter, between 41-47% outside of his 54% 2009 season. As you can see in the picture above, he intentionally tries to lift the ball. This is the main reason for his low BABIPs, in the .240s two of the past three years. His .334 BABIP in ’08 was aided by a 24.2% line drive rate. This is why there shouldn’t be too much concern about hitting in the .250s.
His power rose steadily until 2010, his worst season injury-wise, but rebounded last season. Starting at a .168 ISO his rookie season of 2006, he pounded 31 HR to amass a .235 ISO in ’09. After the 9 HR, .125 ISO season in ’10, Kinsler hit 32 HR and 34 doubles last year, bouncing back to a .223 ISO. While the HR total is once again a significant amount, his raw power is not great. His 12.5% HR/FB is only a bit above average after factoring in his great hitter’s home ballpark. If he’d be able to lower his FB% to around 40%, his increase in BABIP would likely offset the few home runs he’d lose.
The most overlooked part of Kinsler’s game is his discipline, both at the plate and on the bases. His career stolen base rate is almost 86%, 136 for 159. At the plate, his BB/K ratio has bounced around, yet has always been above average at worst. The progression really started in ’10, increasing his walk rate to 12%, while striking out at a similar rate. Last year, he really ramped things up, holding the walk rate but lowering his K-rate under 10%. If he would have an average K rate (~18%), he would have lost 44 batted balls, 3 HR, and 10 hits in play using his 2011 rates. This would have led to about a .234/.337/.455 line, at least a win worse than his actual total.
Kinsler has produced about 20 WAR the past four seasons, meaning 5 WAR is a solid projection at this point of his career. Turning 30 in June, Kinsler is about ready to start his decline phase. That said, he should still be able to produce 18-20 WAR during the life of the contract, which at a rate of $5M/win, would make the contract a good one for the Rangers.
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