Kinsler with the Tigers in 2014
|Detroit Tigers – No. 3|
June 22, 1982 |
|April 3, 2006, for the Texas Rangers|
(through 2015 season)
|Runs batted in||704|
|On-base plus slugging||.791|
|Career highlights and awards|
Ian Michael Kinsler (born June 22, 1982) is an American professional baseball second baseman for the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball (MLB). He formerly played for the Texas Rangers. He is listed at 6 ft 0 in (183 cm) and 200 lb (91 kg).
Despite having been drafted in only the 17th round out of college, Kinsler has risen to become a four-time All Star, and a member of the Sporting News' 2009 list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball. He is known as a five-tool player, hitting for average and power, and excelling in baserunning, throwing, and fielding.
Kinsler has twice hit 30 home runs and stolen 30 bases in the same season (2009 and 2011), and is one of 12 ballplayers in major league history who have had multiple 30–30 club seasons. In 2011, he also joined the 20–20 club for the third time, one season shy of the major league record for a second baseman. He hit for the cycle in a game in 2009, while getting hits in all six of his at-bats.
Through 2013, Kinsler led the Texas Rangers, all-time, career-wise, in stolen bases and power-speed number. In November 2013, Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder. Through 2014, on defense Kinsler had the best career range factor of any active second baseman in Major League Baseball.
- 1 Early life and high school
- 2 Draft and college
- 3 Minor league career (2003–05)
- 4 Major league career
- 4.1 Texas Rangers (2006–13)
- 4.2 Detroit Tigers (2014–present)
- 5 Personal
- 6 Awards
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Early life and high school
Kinsler's father, Howard, was a warden at a state prison on Tucson's southeast side. He has been a major influence on Kinsler. When Kinsler was four his father would toss him fly balls, and his dad says Kinsler would "get under them like he'd been doing it his whole life."
His father coached him until high school, and was especially tough. When Kinsler was 13 years old, and the best player on a PONY league team coached by his father that was playing for a championship, his dad caught Kinsler rolling his eyes as he gave the team orders. "I benched him, without hesitation", said his father. With Kinsler on the bench, the team lost the game.
Kinsler had a physical challenge to overcome. "I've had asthma my whole life", Kinsler said. "That was tough when I was younger. I woke up a lot and couldn't breathe, and had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. It kind of held me back from athletics. I still have it, but I control it. Now I use an atomizer or an inhaler. When I was younger, I used this breathing machine… I hated that thing. I always wanted to run around and be active."
He graduated in 2000 from Canyon del Oro High School in the Tucson suburb of Oro Valley, Arizona. Kinsler helped lead the baseball team to state titles in 1997 and 2000. He hit .380 as a junior, to earn second-team All-League honors, and .504 with 5 home runs and 26 stolen bases during his senior year, in which he was named first-team All-State and first-team All-League. Four of his high school teammates have also made it to the major leagues: Brian Anderson (his best friend in high school), Scott Hairston, Chris Duncan, and Shelly Duncan.
Draft and college
Kinsler was drafted by his home-state Arizona Diamondbacks after high school in 2000 (29th round), but did not feel ready for the pros. He opted instead to take a college tour. First (because he had not been recruited by any Division I programs) he attended Central Arizona College, where he hit .405 with 17 doubles, 37 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases, was named second-team All-ACCAC, and played shortstop alongside future major leaguers Scott Hairston and Rich Harden. The Diamondbacks drafted him again in 2001 (26th round), but he declined to sign because he felt that playing college baseball a little longer would help him develop his game.
Arizona State coach Pat Murphy then convinced him to transfer to ASU in his sophomore year, promising that he would play shortstop for the Sun Devils. But while he started briefly alongside fellow middle infielder Dustin Pedroia, he ended up spending much of the season on the bench. He was also teammates with Andre Ethier.
University of Missouri Tigers coach Tim Jamison spotted him in a summer league, and convinced him to head east for his junior year. Jamison said: "I saw him take ground balls and thought, defensively, he was as good a middle infielder as I had ever seen. As for his bat, I didn't really care." While there, Kinsler had a .335 batting average, .416 on-base percentage, and .536 slugging percentage, with 16 steals in 17 attempts. He was named to the All-Big 12 Conference second team. Jamison noted, "From the day Ian stepped through the doors here, you could see it on his face: He was on a mission." Playing for the Tigers during the 2002 Fall World Series, he led all hitters with a .619 average (13-for-21).
Kinsler was then drafted a third time, by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round (496th overall) in 2003 as a shortstop, at the urging of area scout Mike Grouse. Grouse liked Kinsler's tools, makeup, desire, and gritty approach. In Grouse's scouting report, he wrote that Kinsler had a great feel for the game, athleticism, solid defensive skills, intensity, and leadership qualities. Grouse knew that Kinsler was probably being underrated by rival scouts, who did not know that Kinsler had played with a foot stress fracture while at Missouri, "so [Kinsler] really couldn't run like I knew he could. I'd seen him in Wichita the year before, so I knew he was a plus runner. Most people ... didn't know that, so they probably downgraded him. But I knew it, and I wasn't telling anybody." Kinsler, for his part, says: "I thought I was a lot better than a 17th round pick. I thought I belonged in the top 10 rounds." Kinsler nonetheless agreed to sign with the Rangers on his 21st birthday, for $30,000.
Five years later, John Sickels wrote: "Only a handful of players from the 2003 draft are as good as Kinsler, and he's certainly outperformed many more heralded talents. Scouting and drafting will always be an inexact science/art." The pick was later lauded as "one of the greatest 17th round picks of all time."
Minor league career (2003–05)
2003: Entering the pros
Kinsler signed quickly, and broke in as a shortstop in 2003. He batted .277 in 188 at-bats in his pro debut for the Spokane Indians in the Short-season Northwest League, while leading the team in steals (11) and triples (6). He then spent the 2003–04 winter in Arizona, working out with the Rangers' strength and conditioning coaches. He said: "I was probably 170 pounds, and I decided I needed to lift, put on some weight, and eat as much as I could. And I learned how to hit."
2004: Breakout season
By early 2004, Kinsler had vaulted to the # 1 spot on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet. John Sickels of ESPN described him as having "great plate discipline, power, and ... [being] a reasonably good defensive shortstop."
He had a breakout year in 2004. He split the season between two teams, beginning with the Low-A Clinton Lumberkings, for which he hit .402/.465/.692 in 224 at bats. Kinsler was voted to start at shortstop for the Midwest League Western Division All Star team, while he was leading the league in batting, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, and runs scored, but did not play as he was promoted. Baseball America rated him the most exciting ballplayer and the # 8 prospect in the league. When a friend asked him what the secret was to his success, he responded: "Dude, I have no idea."
Kinsler was promoted two levels on June 12 to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. "When I first got called up, there were a million things running through my head", he said. "I was nervous, my hands were sweating. It was really exciting, but I didn't know what to expect. I was a little nervous that ... all of a sudden I wouldn't be able to hit." In June he was named the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Month. Frisco manager Tim Ireland observed:
I think he's succeeding because his swing is graceful and effortless. It's just a smooth swing, and he hits for power because he lets his swing work for him. Defensively, so far he's shown a real feel for shortstop. He's got good feet and soft hands, and he throws well enough.... He seems pretty legit to me.
He ended up hitting .300/.400/.480 for Frisco, in 277 at-bats. Those numbers would have placed him fourth in OBP, seventh in slugging percentage, and eighth in the league's batting race had he received enough plate appearances to qualify for the title (he was short by about 60). Baseball America rated Kinsler the # 9 prospect in the Texas League.
Overall, in 501 at-bats, Kinsler tied for first in the minor leagues in doubles (51), and was seventh in batting average (.345) and ninth in hits (173). He also had 20 home runs, 103 runs, 98 RBIs, 18 HBP, and 23 steals. Rangers manager Buck Showalter marveled at Kinsler's 51 doubles, saying: "Fifty... A lot of guys don't have 50 singles."
Baseball America rated him the No. 4 Rangers prospect, the No. 11 prospect in the minors, and a second-team Minor League All Star. Kinsler was also named a Sports Weekly All Star, and the Rangers' Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year. In addition, he was awarded the first annual Diamond in the Rough Award, which recognizes a minor leaguer who "defies the odds" and rises from obscurity to play himself into prospect status during a breakout season. For his part, Kinsler noted simply: "It is fun to come to the ballpark every day when you are playing good baseball."
Towards the end of the season, Sickels augmented his scouting report on Kinsler by reporting that he was:
a good athlete, not super-toolsy, but strong for his size with speed a notch above average. His swing looked short, quick, and sharp. Although I'm told that some people worry that his swing is too long, it looked fine to me. "Long swings" usually show up in the stat line as excessive strikeout totals, but Kinsler is not a whiff king. He works the count well, controlling the strike zone without trouble and not swinging at pitches outside the plate area. His bat has some pop in it, particularly to the gaps, where he rifles frequent extra-base shots. He already has above-average power for a player his size, and I think he has enough bat speed to keep hitting home runs at higher levels. Defensively, he shows slightly above-average range and good hands. His arm strength is average, but he's accurate with his throws and seems fundamentally sound, although his error rate is higher than ideal (20 in 71 games at Frisco). He might end up at second base eventually. Kinsler's running speed is a bit better than average, but he's fairly aggressive on the bases and will steal if the opportunity is there. Overall, he is a solid all-around player who makes the most of his natural ability.
Kinsler spent the winter of 2004–05 playing for the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League, improving his versatility by getting work in at second base. There, he hit .306/.369/.500. One scout in Arizona noted that his swing was so effortless, yet generated so much line drive power, that: "It's like he's swinging a Wiffleball bat out there."
2005: Transitioning to second base
Invited to the parent club's 2005 spring training, he hit .327 while slugging .612. Kinsler spent 2005 at Triple-A with the Oklahoma RedHawks, transitioning from shortstop to second base because that is where the organization anticipated he would play in the future, in the event that Alfonso Soriano no longer played second base for the major league team. That was tough on Kinsler's ego initially, but the most difficult part of the switch for him was the double play. He was selected to the mid-season Pacific Coast League All Star team in June, and came in a close second to Mitch Jones in the 2005 Triple-A Home Run Derby.
For the season, in 530 at bats he hit .274 with 23 home runs, 102 runs (tied for tenth in the minor leagues), 94 RBIs, and 12 steals in 14 attempts. Kinsler cracked the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, ranking 98th. On the side, during the season he kept an on-line journal for MinorLeagueBaseball.com.
Major league career
Texas Rangers (2006–13)
With Alfonso Soriano having been traded in the off-season, Kinsler won the Rangers' starting second base job in spring training in 2006 over Mark DeRosa. "Ian Kinsler came as advertised", said Showalter.
The crowd was full; I had the butterflies going, so to get that hit was huge. The family was in town.... To go out there and face one of the best pitchers of all time, you've got to be locked in. It's your first game, your first big league experience—it was unbelievable to face that guy.
He was hitting .476 when he dislocated his left thumb sliding head-first into second base on April 11, 2006, and was placed on the disabled list. "I knew it wasn't good when I looked down and I saw the top part of the thumb pointing in at me", Kinsler said. He came back 41 games later on May 25, and went 3–4 with a single and two home runs, to lead the Rangers to an 8–7 victory over the Oakland Athletics. "I hope the fans don't expect that much every night", he joked.
While Kinsler started off the season batting ninth in the lineup, in June Showalter moved him up to seventh. "I think as Ian's career progresses, he'll move up in the batting order", predicted Showalter. For the season, he started 31 games batting seventh, 30 batting eighth, 20 batting sixth, 19 batting ninth, 12 batting second, 3 batting leadoff, 2 batting third, and 1 batting fifth.
Kinsler finished 2006 with a .286 batting average, 14 home runs, 55 RBIs, and a team-leading 11 stolen bases in 423 at-bats. He batted .300 with runners in scoring position, and .300 when the game was tied. He led all AL rookies with 27 doubles, and his .454 slugging percentage was the seventh-best in a season since 2000 by an AL rookie with at least 400 at bats. Defensively, in August he tied a team record by recording five double plays in one game. He also led all American League (AL) second basemen in both range factor (5.58) and errors (18). He was named Texas Rangers 2006 Rookie of the Year.
2007: 20–20 season
During the 2006–07 off-season, Kinsler focused on building up his legs to improve his speed, durability, and agility. In spring training in 2007, he hit .429, led the AL in RBIs (19), and was sixth in the major leagues in hits (27).
His torrid hitting continued into the season, and Kinsler was named the AL Player of the Week for the period ending April 15. He batted .476 (10-for-21) that week with four home runs, eight RBIs, seven runs scored, and a 1.095 slugging percentage. His nine home runs in April tied the team record for that month (shared by Iván Rodríguez (2000), Alex Rodriguez (2002), and Carl Everett (2003)), and were the most ever in the season's first month by a Major League second baseman. Kinsler said: "I'm trying to put good swings on the ball, and if it goes out, it goes out." He batted .298 with 22 RBIs for the month, and was also voted the Rangers' Player of the Month for April.
On July 2, Kinsler went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his left foot; he did not come back until July 31, and missed 26 games. He tied a major league record on August 25, when he had eight plate appearances in a nine-inning game (a 30–3 win over Baltimore).
In 2007, Kinsler hit 20 home runs (leading all AL second basemen) and was 23-for-25 in stolen base attempts (a 92% success rate). He was one of only six batters in the AL to have at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases, along with Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Grady Sizemore, B.J. Upton, and Curtis Granderson. He also became the sixth player in franchise history to reach the 20–20 plateau, joining Alfonso Soriano (2005), Iván Rodríguez (1999), Rafael Palmeiro (1993), Bobby Bonds (1978), and Toby Harrah (1975 and 1977). He did it despite his stress fracture, which kept him under 500 at bats. His 23 stolen bases and 96 runs led the Rangers.
Kinsler finished the season seventh in the AL in power/speed number (21.4), ninth in sacrifice hits (8) and steals of third base (4), and tied for tenth in bunt hits (5). He was also tied for fourth in the league in steals of third (4), eighth in line drive percentage (23%), and tied for ninth in sacrifice hits (8).  He began to hit higher in the batting order, as he batted second in 48 games, leadoff in 26, seventh in 24, sixth in 19, ninth in 10, and eighth in 2. On defense, Kinsler led all major league second basemen in range factor (5.69), leading the league for the second straight year.
In February 2008, Kinsler signed a five-year deal worth $22 million guaranteed. It will jump to $32 million if the Rangers exercise their $10 million option for 2013. He received a raise to $500,000 in 2008, and a $1 million signing bonus. The contract went to $3 million in 2009 and $4 million in 2010, and will go to $6 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2012.[needs update] If the Rangers choose not to exercise their $10 million option, Kinsler will receive a $500,000 buyout. If he is traded, both the buyout and the option year will increase by $500,000. If the option is exercised, the commitment will have been the largest the Rangers have ever made to a player whom they drafted and developed. "Ian represents the past, present, and future of this organization", said assistant general manager Thad Levine.
"It's a lot of money", Kinsler said. "I've never imagined being in this position in my life." "This is a big day for me and my family", he reflected. "I've been working my whole life to get to this point, since my dad first started taking me out in the backyard and started throwing the baseball with me."
Asked what impact the money would have on him, Kinsler said:
I'm going to play the same regardless of whether I'm making five dollars or $1 trillion. It really doesn't make a difference to me. I'm going to go out there and play hard, and money doesn't bring respect. The way you play the game brings respect. When I finish playing the game, it's not how much money I made that is going to be my legacy. It's how I played the game, and what I did on the field.
Kinsler was delighted when Rangers manager Ron Washington ultimately committed to Kinsler being the team's leadoff hitter in 2008. "I didn't think he was the prototype leadoff hitter, but the guy proved me wrong", Washington said. "He'll take a walk, or get one run for us with one swing of the bat. He can bunt, he can run, and he can hit the ball to the other side."
Through mid-May 2008, Kinsler had the best career stolen-base percentage (88.5%) of anyone in Rangers/Senators history with at least 40 attempts. "It's part of my game", said Kinsler. "It's not one of the first things I'm known for." According to scouts, his ability on the basepaths is due to innate instincts and his "twitch speed" rather than his pure running speed. Grouse, who signed him, says that Kinsler also "goes from first to third faster than anyone, because he has that God-given ability to read the ball so well off the bat."
During a mid-June rain delay at Shea Stadium, Kinsler hopped to his feet, raced from the dugout and dove head-first across the wet tarp covering the infield as though it was a giant Slip 'n Slide. Four teammates followed, receiving a large ovation from the New York Mets fans. Shea Stadium security ushered them off the field, drawing a chorus of boos. "We had some good routines going", said Kinsler. "It was awesome."
Kinsler was a 2008 AL All Star at the 79th All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. It was his most exciting moment in baseball to that point. He was a reserve voted in by his peers. In the fan balloting, Dustin Pedroia, who finished with nearly 1.3 million votes, beat him by 34,243 votes. In the game, Kinsler hit 1-for-5 and stole a base. He was called out attempting to steal another base, though replays demonstrated that the umpire had missed the call. The Washington Post and ESPN baseball writer Jayson Stark picked Kinsler as the AL MVP for the first half of the season.
Through July 28, Kinsler was leading the AL in batting average (.331), runs (90), hits (145), total bases (232), extra base hits (55), at bats (438), and plate appearances (499). He was also second in doubles (37) and power/speed number (17.9), third in sacrifices (7), fourth in singles (90), sixth in sacrifice flies (6), seventh in stolen bases (26), triples (4), and on-base percentage (.392), and eighth in OPS (.922). "Kinsler", said Seattle Mariners left fielder Raúl Ibáñez, "is the engine that makes that offense go."
However, on August 17 he injured the left side of his groin on a defensive play, suffering a sports hernia that ultimately required season-ending surgery. He missed the last 37 games of the season. "I really didn't have a decision", Kinsler said. "If I want to fix this injury, then I have to have surgery."
In 2008, despite missing the last six weeks of the season, Kinsler was third in the AL in times advanced from first to third on a single (17), fourth in batting average (.319) and power/speed number (21.3), fifth in steals of third base (8) and "bases taken" (23; advanced on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks, etc.), sixth in line drive percentage (24%) and in extra base hit percentage (10.8% of all plate appearances), eighth in runs (102) and OPS (.892), ninth in sacrifice hits (8) and home runs on the road (14), and tenth in stolen bases (26; while only being caught twice—a 93% success rate) and lowest strikeout percentage (11.5% of at bats).
He hit .413 with runners in scoring position. He was one of only three batters in the AL to have at least 18 home runs and 18 stolen bases in both 2007 and 2008, along with Alex Rodriguez and Grady Sizemore. His 41 doubles ranked second in franchise history to Alfonso Soriano's 43 in 2005. He had a .377 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter, the third-best mark in the AL, and his .521 slugging percentage was the highest for a leadoff batter in the American League. Kinsler's .381 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter over the 2005–08 seasons was the fourth-highest in the major leagues.
"Most hitters have [a location] that you can exploit", said All Star pitcher Justin Duchscherer. "This guy has trouble with fastballs in. This guy has trouble with breaking balls down. [Kinsler] doesn't have a hole like that." In the field, he led all major league second basemen with a 5.77 range factor and 123 double plays, but also in errors with 18.
Kinsler was mentioned as an MVP candidate before his injury by writers at ESPN, the Dallas News, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. He could have conceivably rivaled Pedroia for MVP, if not for the sports hernia that cut his 2008 campaign short a month and a half. "I think he just missed having an MVP year", manager Ron Washington said. "If luck [had been] on our side and he [had stayed] healthy, he would have run away with it." In the end, he received a single 10th-place vote from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
2009: Hitting for the cycle, and joining the 30–30 club
In 2009, Kinsler was named # 24 on the Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball. A panel of 100 baseball people, many of them members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and winners of major baseball awards, was polled to arrive at the list.
On April 15, 2009, in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Kinsler hit for the cycle, becoming only the fourth Ranger to do so (and, at the time, the only right-handed Ranger). In the same game, Kinsler became only the second player in Ranger history to get 6 hits in a single game (the first having been Alfonso Soriano, on May 8, 2004), and the first to do so in a 9-inning game. His five runs and four extra base hits in the game matched two other team records.
"It was a thing of beauty", teammate Marlon Byrd said. "I loved it." Kinsler's dual feat was the first in the modern baseball era. The last major league player to have six hits in a game while hitting for the cycle was William Farmer Weaver, for the Louisville Colonels on August 12, 1890. Kinsler's 13 total bases were also one base shy of Jose Canseco's June 13, 1994, team record. Only three other players in the prior 55 years had had six hits, five runs, and four extra-base hits in a game, the most recent having been Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.
Kinsler was named AL co-Player of the Week on April 20, 2009. For the week, in 30 plate appearances he led the major leagues in batting average (.556), hits (15), extra base hits (7), and runs (9), and tied for the lead in doubles (4). He also had a .600 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging percentage, with a triple, two home runs, and six stolen bases. "He's incredible", said teammate Hank Blalock.
On June 16 against Houston, Kinsler opened the first inning with his ninth career leadoff homer, surpassing the club record of eight, shared by Mike Hargrove, Oddibe McDowell, and Michael Young. On May 21, Kinsler stole third base in the fifth inning, setting a club record for career steals of third at 18. Furthermore, at the time Kinsler had never been caught trying to steal third. Rick Paulas of ESPN called Kinsler his "first quarter MVP."
Through July 1, Kinsler led the AL in power-speed number (17.5), was third in home runs (19), fourth in runs (55) and total bases (160), sixth in extra base hits (38) and at bats (307), seventh in sacrifice flies (4), and ninth in stolen bases (16) and sacrifices (8), while batting .359 against left-handers and .333 with runners on base.
Kinsler narrowly missed making the AL All-Star team. First, though he had led all AL second basemen as of June 30, with 2,170,100 fan votes (fifth-most votes of all AL players, just ahead of Dustin Pedroia's 2,163,270), Pedroia passed him on the last day in last-minute voting. Then, he just missed making the team as a reserve in player voting, coming in second again, this time to Toronto's Aaron Hill. He missed in his third chance, as AL All Star team and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon did not pick him as a reserve. He missed a fourth opportunity to make the team, in the Sprint Final Vote competition for the final spot on the team, coming in second to Brandon Inge of the Tigers. A fifth opportunity presented itself when Pedroia pulled out of the All Star Game to spend time with his pregnant wife—and as Kinsler had finished second in fan voting, in player voting, and in the Final Vote competition, he appeared a likely candidate to replace his fellow second baseman. But Maddon went with one of his own to replace Pedroia, Tampa Bay's first baseman Carlos Peña, who was leading the league in homers but batting .228 (and who had come in fourth in the Final Vote competition, behind Kinsler and Chone Figgins). A sixth and final opportunity presented itself when Evan Longoria withdrew because of a finger infection; but again Maddon (a former Angels coach) chose someone else as a replacement, this time Figgins of the Angels, who had come in third in the Final Vote competition (behind Kinsler).
Bleacher Reports' Andrew Nuschler observed: "Maddon spent his tenure as the AL All Star manager finding new and inventive ways to give Ian Kinsler the middle finger." And Sports Illustrated's Jacob Osterhout took note, writing:
It is an absolute travesty that Ian Kinsler is not the starting second baseman for the American League. Dustin Pedroia, who IS the starting second baseman, has hit only three home runs and has 36 RBIs. Kinsler, on the other hand, has hit 20 home runs and has 63 RBIs. The fact that Kinsler isn't even a reserve makes it hard to take the All Star Game seriously.
At the All Star Game, as a tribute to Kinsler, his teammate and close friend Michael Young wore wristbands with Kinsler's number 5.
On July 11, Kinsler stole third base for the 21st time in his career, building on his team record, without ever having been thrown out. On July 19, he led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, and 12 innings later he broke a 3–3 tie with a two-run, walk-off home run. Only four times before in major league history had the same batter led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, and ended the game with another homer. Kinsler suffered a strained left hamstring on July 28, and missed 11 games while on the disabled list.
Kinsler, who already had 30 stolen bases, hit his 30th home run on September 25, becoming the only major leaguer to join the 30–30 club in 2009, and the 34th major leaguer ever. He became only the second player in Rangers' history to have a 30–30 season (joining Alfonso Soriano, who did it in 2005), and joined Soriano (who also had 30–30 seasons in 2002 and 2003 for the Yankees) and Brandon Phillips (2007) as the only 30–30 second basemen in Major League history. "It's an incredible accomplishment," said Michael Young. "I've played with guys who have had some incredible seasons here, but 30–30 is something special. He deserves a lot of credit. He battled all season long. That's what separates the great players from the good ones."
He led the AL in power-speed#, with a 31.0. Through 2009, he had the second-highest steal success rate among active players with at least 100 attempts, at 87.5% (91-of-104). Carlos Beltrán was the best, at 88.3%. Sharing his philosophy on stealing bases, he said: "It takes the art of stealing away if you do it when you're four runs up or four runs down, and the opposing team is just worried about getting outs, not stolen bases. The idea is to steal them when you need them."
He also showed a good eye at the plate. Of 15 Rangers who had at least 100 at bats, his rate of only one strikeout per 8.31 at-bats was the best on the team. Similarly, he made contact on 87% of his swings, the best contact rate on the team.
Playing 144 games, he also had 13 home runs against lefties (2nd in the league), stole third base 11 times (3rd), hit 47% of his hits for extra bases (7th-best in the AL), was 7th in the AL in stolen bases, scored 101 runs (10th), and had 5 bunt hits (10th). On defense he led AL second baseman in "zone runs"s (17), was 2nd in assists (451) and range factor/game (4.86), and was 5th in putouts (249).
In December 2009, Washington said Kinsler would bat second in 2010. "I think Kinsler performs better when he's in the mix hitting at the top of the lineup in the first inning", Washington said. "When he has to wait to hit, I think it takes a lot away from him." But by early March, it was reported that he would bat fifth. Washington said, however, that that would not keep Kinsler from running: "I will not slow him down. He is a threat. I will not take away that threat. I'm not stopping Kins." On days when Julio Borbon was not batting leadoff, Kinsler was to move up to the top of the lineup. In the end, Kinsler started 60 games batting 3rd, 20 games batting 5th, 16 games batting 6th, and 6 games leading off.
In spring training, while he was batting .400, Kinsler slipped on a patch of wet grass during pre-game warm-ups. He rolled his right ankle, and suffered a sprain of the ligaments above it (referred to as a "high ankle sprain"), as well as a small bone bruise at the tip of his tibia at the back of his ankle. He missed three weeks of spring training, and began the season on the disabled list. Washington said: "We miss his presence. We miss his threat. We miss what he brings on the defensive end. We miss his leadership." He made his initial 2010 appearance on April 30, after having missed the first 20 games of the season.
Batting .304 at the time with a .412 on-base percentage (4th in the AL), he was selected as a reserve to the 2010 American League All Star team, his second All Star Game. An appreciative Kinsler said: "It's a huge honor." He had finished third among AL second basemen in fan voting behind Robinson Canó and Pedroia, but Pedroia was injured, and Kinsler was picked to replace him. He had also finished second among AL second basemen in voting by AL players. On July 29 he went on the disabled list again, this time for a strained left groin, and was not reactivated until September 1.
Kinsler finished the season batting .286, with a career-high on-base percentage of .382. His .985 fielding percentage was 5th-best in the league, and he had the highest career range factor/game of all active major league second basemen (5.201). With his two stints on the disabled list, he played in only 103 games.
In the first round of the playoffs, against the Tampa Bay Rays, Kinsler batted .444/.500/.944 in five games, leading the majors with 3 home runs (tied) and 6 RBIs in the division series. He hit safely and scored a run in all five games, joining Boston's Nomar Garciaparra as the only two players to start their post-season careers with at least one hit—and with at least one hit and one run—in each of five consecutive games. As teammate Nelson Cruz also hit three home runs, it marked the second time in Major League history that two teammates each hit three homers in a postseason series of five games or fewer (the other two to do it were Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, in the 1928 World Series). For the first two rounds of the playoffs, Kinsler hit safely in 9 of 11 games, and batted .342 with 3 HRs, a playoff-high 9 RBIs, 6 runs, 2 stolen bases, an OBP of .409, and an OPS of 1.067.
2011: 30–30 club, redux
On April 2, 2011, Kinsler became the first player in major league history to hit a lead-off home run in the first two games of a season (giving him a total of 15 lead-off homers in his career). In his next game against the Red Sox, he hit another home run in the third inning. Kinsler and Nelson Cruz also became the first two teammates to homer in each of the first three games in a season. The two also joined Dean Palmer (1992) as the only Texas ballplayers to ever homer in the first three games of the season.
In September Kinsler tied his own Rangers record, which he set in 2009, with his seventh leadoff home run of the season. He also hit his 20th career leadoff homer, becoming the 34th player in major league baseball history to have hit at least 20. Since his first season in 2006, his 20 lead-off homers were the 6th-most behind Alfonso Soriano (31), Hanley Ramírez (25), Jimmy Rollins (24), Curtis Granderson (24), and Rickie Weeks (24).
Kinsler joined the 30–30 club, for the second time. He became the 12th player in major league history to have multiple 30–30 seasons. The only other infielders in major league history who had had multiple 30–30 seasons as of 2011 were Alfonso Soriano, Howard Johnson, and Jeff Bagwell. He also joined the 20 (home runs)/20 (steals) club for the third time in his career. Joe Morgan, who did it four seasons, is the only second baseman to have joined the 20–20 club more times.
In 2011 Kinsler was 2nd in the American League in runs scored (121; the fifth-highest season total in Rangers' history), 5th in home runs (32; a career high) and walks (89), and 9th in stolen bases (30) and extra base hits (70). He was also third in power-speed # (31.0; behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson), and had the best walks-to-strikeouts ratio in the major leagues, with 1.25 walks per each strikeout. On defense, his career range factor of 5.092 was the highest among active major league second basemen, and in 2011 he led AL second basemen in double plays, with 103.
His 136 career stolen bases through season-end were third-most in Rangers history, behind Bump Wills (161) and Toby Harrah (143), and his career stolen-base percentage was the third-best rate among active players with at least 120 attempts.
On October 4, in Game 4 of the playoff series against the Rays, Kinsler led off the game with a home run, sparking the Rangers 4–3 victory over Tampa Bay to send them to the ALCS.
Kinsler was an All Star again in 2012, for the third time. For the season, he was second in the AL in plate appearances (731), third in at bats (655) and runs (105), fifth in power-speed number (20.0), sixth in doubles (42), and eighth in hit by pitch (10).
2013: Rangers' all-time stolen base leader
In 2013, Kinsler struck out once every 10.4 plate appearances, making him the third-toughest batter to strike out in the American League, and was the sixth-toughest batter to double up in the league (109.0 at bats/double play). He finished the season tied for fifth among active players in leadoff home runs. He led the Texas Rangers, all-time, career-wise, in stolen bases (172), hit by pitch (57), and power-speed number (163.6), and was fifth in runs (748), seventh in doubles (249) and walks (462), eighth in home runs (156), and ninth in hits (1,145) and RBIs (539). Fangraphs ranked him as the 56th-best baserunner in baseball history.
Detroit Tigers (2014–present)
In November 2013, Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder in a one-for-one trade of All-Stars, with the Tigers sending Texas $30 million to cover part of the difference in the players' salaries. There was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball commercial in 2010 where Kinsler and Fielder were talking about trading each other for Tim Lincecum.
In 2014, Kinsler was named to his fourth All-Star team, as a replacement for an injured Victor Martinez. For the season he led the American League in at bats (684), was 4th in hits (188) and doubles (40), 5th in runs scored (100; scoring 100 runs for the fifth time in his career), and 7th in power-speed number (15.9). He was the 10th-toughest batter in the American League to strike out (once per every 9.19 plate appearances), and was one of seven AL players to hit at least 15 home runs and steal at least 15 bases.  On defense, he led the AL in putouts (290) and was third in assists (467) and fielding percentage (.988), among all second basemen. Through 2014, Kinsler had the best career range factor of any active second baseman in Major League Baseball, at 4.881.
On September 10, Kinsler recorded his 1,500th career hit, a single off of Bryan Shaw of the Cleveland Indians. For the 2015 season, he hit .296, his best batting average since posting a career-high .319 mark in 2008, while collecting 11 home runs and 73 RBIs.
Following the 2015 season, Kinsler was awarded the Fielding Bible Award as the best fielding second baseman in MLB. His 19 Defensive Runs Saved were six better than any other Major League second baseman this season, according to Fangraphs. His 6.3 Ultimate Zone Rating was the best in the American League and second only to Miami's Dee Gordon. His 2.6 defensive Wins Above Replacement, according to the Baseball Reference formula, ranked him eighth among all Major League players regardless of position. Kinsler has put up 50 Defensive Runs Saved over the last three seasons, according to The Fielding Bible. The next-best total among Major League second basemen is 29 from Colorado's DJ LeMahieu.
Kinsler, who is Jewish, and whose father is Jewish while his mother is Catholic, has become a prominent figure in the Jewish community, and enjoys the attention that he attracts from it. He was featured in the 2008 Hank Greenberg 75th Anniversary edition of Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Cards, licensed by Major League Baseball, commemorating the Jewish major leaguers from 1871 through 2008. He joined, among others, teammate Scott Feldman, Brad Ausmus, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Jason Hirsh, John Grabow, Craig Breslow, and Scott Schoeneweis. Kinsler was one of three Jewish players in the 2008 All Star Game, joining Youkilis and Braun. He says that "Youkilis will always say something to me on the bases [referring to the fact that they are both Jewish]. 'Happy Passover,' he'll throw something at me." In July 2013 he passed Shawn Green with his 163rd steal, to become the all-time career steals leader among Jewish major leaguers.
Kinsler, who would have been eligible to play for Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic because of his Jewish heritage, said: "Wow, I would be happy to play for Team Israel.... The truth is that if a proposal comes from Team USA to play for them, I will have a very difficult decision to make. Youk [Kevin Youkilis], Braun [Milwaukee's Ryan Braun], and I could make a fantastic team. I am sure that I'll talk it over with Youk – we always laugh about things like this."
Kinsler married Tess Brady, his high school sweetheart, on November 18, 2006. Their daughter, Rian Brooklynn Kinsler, was born December 5, 2008. On June 8, 2011, his wife gave birth to a son, Jack Jamisson Kinsler. He was put on paternity leave due to the birth.
In 2008 Kinsler won the Rangers' Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award, in recognition of his having devoted a great deal of his personal time to the community.
- 2004 – Rangers Minor League Player of the Month (June)
- 2004 – Midwest League All Star (ss)
- 2004 – Baseball America Midwest League: most exciting ballplayer
- 2004 – Baseball America Texas Rangers: # 4 prospect
- 2004 – Baseball America Midwest League: # 8 prospect
- 2004 – Baseball America Texas League: # 9 prospect
- 2004 – Baseball America Minor Leagues: # 11 prospect
- 2004 – Baseball America second-team Minor League All Star (SS)
- 2004 – Texas Rangers' Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year Award
- 2004 – Sports Weekly All Star (SS)
- 2004 – Diamond in the Rough Award
- 2005 – Pacific Coast League All Star (2B)
- 2006 – Texas Rangers Rookie of the Year
- 2007 – AL Player of the Week (mid-April)
- 2008 – AL All Star (2B)
- 2008 – Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award
- 2009 – AL Player of the Week (mid-April)
- 2010 – AL All Star (2B)
- 2012 – AL All Star (2B)
- 2014 – AL All Star (2B)
- 2015 – Fielding Bible Award (2B)
- List of select Jewish baseball players
- List of Major League Baseball players to hit for the cycle
- List of Major League Baseball hitters with six hits in one game
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On Wednesday afternoon [Kinsler] was named the 2008 winner of the Rangers' prestigious Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award.
Ruttman, Larry (2013). "Ian Kinsler: Major League All-Star Second Baseman". American Jews and America's Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball. Lincoln, Nebraska and London, England: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 481–491. ISBN 978-0-8032-6475-5. This chapter in Ruttman's oral history, based on a September 2, 2011 interview conducted with Kinsler for the book, discusses Kinsler's American, Jewish, baseball, and life experiences from youth to the present.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ian Kinsler.|
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Ian Kinsler on Twitter
- Baseball America bio
- "Warming up for the Jewish Boys of Summer," March 5, 2008
- "Second To None", Sports Illustrated, August 11, 2008
- "Interview with Ian Kinsler: Rangers voice Morgan chats with All Star second baseman," mlb.com, November 4, 2008
- "T.R. Sullivan interviews Ian Kinsler: Kinsler talks about being healthy and making an impact," mlb.com, March 5, 2009
- "Ian Kinsler chat transcript; Rangers second baseman fields questions from fans," mlb.com, May 27, 2009
- "Grouse Hunt: The Inside Story of How Ian Kinsler Became a Ranger," D Magazine, June 7, 2009
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