Kinsler leads the Tigers in many ways

Ian Kinsler has been a pretty good get for the Detroit Tigers.

Ian Kinsler

KinslerKinsler had the go-ahead home run in the ninth inning as the Tigers rallied to beat the Houston Astros on Saturday.

The Tigers are loaded with star power between Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

But it’s Kinsler who leads the team in Wins Above Replacement this season. He has 3.6 Wins Above Replacement, or a hair more than the 3.5 he averaged in his last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, before being traded for Prince Fielder.

The home run was Kinsler’s 100th hit of the season. He’s on pace for 210, which isn’t bad considering he’s never finished a season with more than 168.

It was the second time in his career that he hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later. The other came in 2009, a walk-off home run to beat R.A. Dickey and the Minnesota Twins.

All-Around Standout

What has made Kinsler so valuable in 2014?

He rates first among those whose primary position is second base with a .489 slugging percentage and his .832 OPS ranks second, trailing only Scooter Gennett of the Milwaukee Brewers (.837). Kinsler’s 25 doubles rank second in the American League, trailing only Cabrera’s 28.

Kinsler also leads all second basemen with 10 Defensive Runs Saved, one shy of his 2013 total and a major improvement for the Tigers, whose second basemen combined for -7 Defensive Runs Saved in 2013.

Inside the at-bat

Kinsler homered on a 93-mph fastball from Jerome Williams over the outer-half of the plate.

Kinsler has been feasting on those pitches lately. In his last four games, he has eight hits (and only three missed swings) on outer-half pitches.

How he’s hitting

Kinsler’s rate of hard-hit balls (charted by a company that tracks such data for major-league teams and media) is actually lower this season (17 percent) than it was last season (20 percent), but his numbers are better on both ground balls (on which he’s hitting .311 (after never hitting better than .245 over the previous four seasons) and line drives (40 of 52 have gone for base hits).

Kinsler also handled the move from Texas to Detroit fine in the power department. He has six home runs at Comerica Park, or one more than he hit in Rangers Ballpark in 2013.

Looking Ahead

Keep an eye on whether Kinsler starts to wear down as the season gets past the midpoint.

Kinsler has hitorically been a much better player before the All-Star Break than after it.

He has a .285/.361/.473 slashline before the break, .260/.332/.430 after the break.

Kinsler may not have an opportunity to rest during the break. He could be only the second Tigers second baseman to make an All-Star team since Lou Whitaker retired. Placido Polanco was the last to do so, in 2007.