From 2009-2011 the Cleveland Indians struggled to get quality production from their second baseman. They had everyone from Luis Valbuena to Jason Donald, but whoever they sent out their failed to make an impression. They may have finally found a player who can fulfill that void though.
In 2009 the Indians had a total of 651 plate appearances from their second baseman, and those plate appearances were distributed between three players. Asdrubal Cabrera, Luis Valbuena, and Jamey Carroll all had an opportunity to show why they should get start over their peers.
Asdrubal Cabrera did the best job, posting a 118 sOPS+. Anything over 100 means that the player did better than league average when looking at a specific split., and vice versa. In this case, Asdrubal Cabrera’s 118 sOPS+ was 18% better than the league average second baseman. Unfortunately Cabrera was hit with a few injuries that season, and he missed a ton of games. On the contrary, Jamey Carroll and Luis Valbuena struggled to make any kind of contribution. Both had sub-par slash lines, and posted a below average sOPS+.
2010 wasn’t much better, the Indians still struggled to find someone to play second. Playing time was given to Mark Grudzielanek, Luis Valbuena, among others and the results were the same. Abysmal.
Valbuena continued to have a poor time at the plate, his 48 sOPS+ was much worse in 2010 then it was in 2009. Jayson Nix did the best out of everyone, but 105 plate appearances is an extremely small sample size, and overall his season was poor. Jason Donald didn’t do terrible, overall his statistics were below the league average. Mark Grudzielanek wasn’t much better than Valbuena, and hasn’t been in the majors since.
In 149 plate appearances Jason Kipnis not only showed the ability to get on base at a decent .336 clip, but he also showed that he could hit for power. Before Kipnis was recalled the Indians didn’t have a second baseman who could consistently do both.
This year Kipnis’ slash line is .265/.341/.470 with a 132 sOPS+. The power isn’t as high as it was last year, but overall it’s closer to his minor league totals. Looking at the ZiPS rest of season projection over at Fangraphs, we can get an idea of how Kipnis is expected to finish the season. ZiPS has Kipnis’ slash line for the rest of the season as follows: .258/.322/.426. Using the ZiPS updated projections this would leave Kipnis with a slash line of .260/.326/.435 by seasons end. Remember though that ZiPS is a projection, and isn’t what’s going to happen. Kipnis has had a solid start to the season, and it looks as if the Indians have finally found their guy at second base for the foreseeable future.