Mensching: Kinsler having career year, deserves All-Star nod

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News
Ian Kinsler

Ian Kinsler should be an All-Star.

He won’t be voted in by the fans, though as long as Royals fans don’t hack their way to Omar Infante starting, the candidate likely will be a deserving one.

In a voting update released last week, Jose Altuve led the position with more than 893,000 votes. He was followed by, yes, Infante, with 623,000, then Robinson Cano (537,000), and Dustin Pedroia (509,000).

Finally, in fifth, you find Kinsler at a mere 267,000.

That’s nearly a half-million votes fewer than Miguel Cabrera at first base, and nearly 100,000 fewer than Nick Castellanos at third.

Still, that should be seen as a bit of an improvement. Kinsler didn’t even crack the top five AL second basemen on the first ballot update released by MLB last month.

Frankly, it’s a bit strange, because he’s the most deserving position player on the team.

And he’s having not only his best season in a Tigers uniform, but his best season as a major leaguer, as well.

Kinsler's bunt backfires against Yankees

So why, exactly, aren’t people voting for him? It’s bewildering.

Kinsler’s batting .317, with a .370 on-base percentage and .534 slugging average. He’s also leading the team in home runs after hitting his 13th on Sunday.

Translate his hitting figures into a sabermetric stat that takes all batting outcomes into consideration, wOBA, or weighted on-base average, and you’ll find he’s the best batter on the team.

That merits an asterisk because Cameron Maybin has been putting everyone to shame at the plate since rejoining the team in May. But he’s not qualified for the batting title due to lacking enough plate appearances, so it’s best to skip by him for now.

Kinser’s currently sporting a .384 wOBA. That’s equal to designated hitter Victor Martinez. It’s ahead of Castellanos, and Cabrera, and everyone else on the team.

Kinsler’s also one of the few Tigers to have a positive baserunning figure, per Fangraphs, as well as a positive number of Defensive Runs Saved.

So when you add it all up, it should come as no surprise Kinsler’s leading Tigers position players in WAR (wins above replacement) by rather a sizeable margin a little more than two months into the season.

Kinsler’s at 2.4 WAR at Fangraphs, followed by Castellanos (1.5), Cabrera (1.3.) and Victor Martinez (1.1).

You can take this a step further and look at win probability added (WPA), which is the cumulative amount a player’s actions add or subtract from a team’s historic likelihood of winning a baseball game.

Only Cabrera (5.13) has done more to help the Tigers win than Kinsler (4.99).

Oh, but that’s only the positive that the two have contributed. Grounding into a double play or striking out during a key situation can take away from the figure.

So when you make an accounting of all the positives and negatives, Kinsler actually comes out on top (1.13 to Cabrera’s 1.10).

If you’re a fan of the Tigers and don’t want to blindly punch the ballot for every player on the team, Kinsler’s the way to go.

He has just one problem. For as good as he’s been, Altuve (.408 wOBA, 3.5 WAR) and Cano (.390, 2.8) have actually been better, more complete players.

Bad year for Kinsler to have a career season, though he’s certainly helped carry his team when it needed it.

He might not be voted into the American League starting lineup, but if only one Tigers position player can make the team -- and let’s face it, it’s hard to make a compelling argument for the others -- Kinsler is who it should be in San Diego next month. Not Cabrera or Castellanos.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.