Detroit – At this time last season, Ian Kinsler was hitting .314 with a .543 slugging percentage and a .910 OPS with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs.
This year, he’s down in every category -- .250/.370/.706, with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Kinsler will turn 35 years old next week.
Miguel Cabrera at this time last year was hitting .305 with a .524 slugging percentage and .903 OPS, with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs.
This year, he too is down in every category -- .277/.426/.803, with five home runs and 29 RBIs. He turned 34 in April.
Such a downturn in production from two elite but aging hitters invariably raises concern that father time has caught up to them. Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon isn’t buying it.
“I don’t think they’re losing anything,” he said. “I think they’re in great shape, they take care of themselves.”
McClendon has talked to both hitters recently and he imparted the same bit of wisdom he told to Justin Upton coming out of spring training last season. Trust your track record.
“Check the book; the book doesn’t lie,” he said. “What you’ve done (in the past years) is what you are going to do. Some years you may be 10 percent higher and some years you may be 10 percent lower.
“The problem is, we get caught up in the moment and we stop seeing the big picture. And when the big picture is all said and done, the numbers are going to be right where they’re supposed to be. They have to trust that.”
It worked for Upton last year. He struggled mightily for the better part of four months and finished with a career-best 31 home runs and 87 RBIs.
“Both of those guys (Kinsler and Cabrera) are a little frustrated right now where their numbers are in the moment,” McClendon said. “Ten days from now, they won’t remember this conversation. That’s the way it works. Hitting has always been that way and it will always be that way.”
Both are showing signs of heating up. In eight games in June, Kinsler is hitting .303. Three of his 10 hits are doubles and he’s scored seven runs. Cabrera, in 11 games this month, is hitting .333 with six doubles and seven RBIs.
The home run ball, though, has been missing. Cabrera's last home run came May 20. He came into the game Thursday having gone 99 plate appearances without a home run. Kinsler’s last homer came May 21 -- he’s gone 59 plate appearances without one.
“Man, I am just trying to enjoy it, play baseball and try to help the team every day,” Kinsler said. “At the end of the season, I will look at the numbers and determine how the season went. I don’t have time to analyze my numbers or my batting average.”
He said he feels like he is seeing the ball well and he’s making a lot of hard contact that hasn’t been rewarded with hits.
“My strike zone discipline has been good,” he said. “I’ve been putting good swings on the ball. Just not a lot to show for it right now. You just keep plugging away.”
As for Cabrera, this feels like an annual discussion. He quieted all the concern and all the critics by hitting .346 with 20 home runs and 55 RBIs after the All-Star break last season.
“Every year we have this discussion about Cabrera,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Is Miggy getting older? Is he struggling? I told you the last two years and his turnaround the last two years speaks for itself. Last year he ended up having an unbelievable last two months; he and Justin Upton carried us.
“I am not worried about Miguel Cabrera at all.”
Neither is McClendon.
“Some of the greatest players that ever played this game got caught up in the moment,” McClendon said. “Because you want to see the results. But these guys are working hard. They are working the right way. Their routine is good and they have tremendous track records.
“I’ll put my money on them every day.”