Kinsler approaching Hall of Fame pace, and not slowing down

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Ian Kinsler

Cleveland – If you know Ian Kinsler at all, you knew he would politely dismiss it.

“That’s just time,” he said. “You play for a certain amount of time and you start to accumulate numbers.”

That’s true, certainly. But in this case, the numbers that Kinsler's accrued, or will accrue by the end of this season, paint a pretty accurate picture of the kind of player he’s been the past 11 years.

Kinsler, by the end of the season – maybe by August, the way he’s going – will have amassed 1,000 runs, 200 stolen bases, 1,500 hits and 200 home runs in his career.

With his single and two-run home run Tuesday, he’s at 1,551 hits. He has 199 stolen bases, 964 runs scored and 189 home runs.

According to Baseball Reference.com, he would become the 40th player in Major League history to hit those levels in all of those statistical categories – joining a big batch of current or soon-to-be Hall-of-Famers: Derek Jeter, Robin Yount, Craig Biggio, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and George Brett to name only a few.

Impressive company.

“I mean, that’s what I want to be,” he said. “Not just those numbers, but also on the defensive side of the ball. Really, whatever it takes, I want to be able to do everything well, not have a hole in my game.”

His career WAR (wins above replacement) of 48.2 probably makes the same point. And yet, Kinsler still makes most all-underrated teams.

“He’s not underrated for us,” Tigers hitting coach Wally Joyner said. “He played many years in Texas and they were very successful -- and he was one of the reasons, if not the reason. He’s a great leader and they go unnoticed sometimes except for the team they are playing for.

“He is a very valuable piece to our team. He’s our spark plug. He’s the guy who gets us started and we are lucky to have him.”

This season he ranks in the top 10 in the American League in WAR (10th), defensive WAR (seventh), runs scored (second) and hits (fourth). He led the league last year and is leading it again this year in multi-hit games.

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“He’s very steady,” Joyner said. “If Brad (Ausmus) or any other manager were talking to you, they’d say they wish they had nine Kinslers to put in the lineup. It’s a compliment to Ian because Brad can put him in the leadoff spot and at second base and worry about everybody else.

“He knows what he’s going to get from Ian and that’s what it’s all about.”

Amazingly, he will turn 34 in June and shows no sign of aging – on the field or in the batter’s box. He’s missed just nine games in the two-plus seasons he’s been with the Tigers, and most have been rest days.

“He takes very good care of himself,” said Joyner, who hit .300-plus at age 37. “He watches what he eats. He works out the correct way. He does everything it takes to maintain his focus and peak performance.”

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Joyner said the decision Kinsler made to change his body before the 2014 season was vital. He made himself leaner to improve his quickness and agility, even if it cost him some of his power.

“But that’s going to help his knees and his legs,” Joyner said. “George Hendrick (his former teammate with the Angels) told me years and years ago – you take care of your knees and your legs and they will take you wherever you want to go.”

Kinsler has two more years on his contract with the Tigers and he’s not looking at that as the finish line. He wants to keep playing as long as he’s producing – or until he wins a World Series ring.

“Those numbers, that’s just something you look back on at the end of your career and can be proud of,” Kinsler said. “While you are in it, though, you’re just trying to win every game and do whatever you can to help the team.

“We’ll look back on all the numbers at the end and see where we’re at. But right now, I want to get back to the World Series and I want that ring.”

Twitter @cmccosky