Obviously, Cleveland fans who watch Jason Kipnis everyday (or close to it) feel strongly that he should be included in this year’s American League All-Star squad in New York. He’s certainly the most worthy player on the Tribe, which will likely be the reason he makes it if he makes it. Each team gets an All-Star, so it would make sense that he would be the Indians’ representative. While that reasoning isn’t necessarily the most satisfying, it’s the reality of the popularity contest that is every All-Star game known to man. Robinson Cano will be the starter at second base for the AL, and probably deservedly so.
While we’re here though, let’s take a look at how Kipnis stacks up against the top five second basemen in the voting right now. First, here’s a list of the current top five as of July 1:
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 3,974,322
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 2,838,129
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,767,806
Omar Infante, Tigers: 1,554,514
Jose Altuve, Astros: 1,227,462
Not a shocker to see Cano and Dustin Pedroia up top, and statistically they deserve to be there. Here’s a link to the season-to-date statistics from MLB.com for qualifying second basemen. Notice that Ian Kinsler is not currently a qualifier due to the ribs injury he sustained in May. He is since back in the Rangers’ lineup, but the DL stint took away some at-bats. For the sake of this argument, we’ll take Kinsler out because he’s played in 56 games and his averages are close but not quite comparable to the rest of the top five (or Kipnis). To “qualify” for averaged statistics, a player has to average 3.1 plate appearances or more for every game his team has played.
Anyway, here’s a quick look at the top five second basemen sorted by batting average. We’ll start here and refer to this table for the rest of the numbers.
It’s interesting that Howie Kendrick isn’t somewhere in the voting with him being in L.A., but that’s besides the point. Average wise, Kipnis ranks right in the middle of the current top five. That’s one argument against his case, but he has also played in less games than Pedroia and Cano. Given his mighty struggles at the beginning of this season, his average is extremely impressive and indicative of how red hot he is at the plate right now.
Moving along to OBP. Kipnis’ on-base numbers are better than all but those of Pedroia. Not bad company there, and certainly All-Star worthy.
Slugging is always an interesting number, and it’s a little surprising that Kipnis is as close to Cano as he is. For those wondering, slugging percentage is aptly named for it’s measure of a player’s power. It’s calculated by dividing total bases by at-bats. Cano is the best power-hitting second baseman in baseball right now, but take a look at the doubles and triples column and you’ll see where Kipnis makes up ground. His speed is something that doesn’t make him necessarily better than Cano, but does make him a different player and more versatile. Notice Kipnis leads in steals, doubles, and triples, all areas that are really the only ones Jose Altuve can compete in amongst this group.
The strikeout/walk ratio is one spot where Kipnis gets into some trouble. He strikes out at a rate that is a bit alarming compared to the rest of the players in this discussion, but a small saving grace is that he does walk more than all of them except for Pedroia.
OPS time. This is where Kipnis’ numbers shine the most. Because of the all-encompassing nature of the stat (on-base plus slugging), it’s a great measure of how well-rounded a player’s skill set is. At a stellar .913 (7th best in all of the American League), leading in this category may be the single-most compelling reason why Jason Kipnis is just as good of an All-Star choice if not better than the players leading the voting.
A final tally of where Kipnis stands in the batting categories for those keeping score at home (including some not discussed in detail above):
Home Runs- 2nd
Stolen Bases- 1st
Batting Average- 3rd
Slugging Pct.- 2nd
The final thing to keep in mind that may augment the importance of Kipnis’ lead in some categories is that he has played in 10 fewer games than Cano and Pedroia. Regardless of how it turns out, watching Kipnis heat up in June was exciting to watch, and his numbers for the month are absolutely ridiculous. His season-long numbers are certainly All-Star caliber, so we will just have to wait and see. In fairness, the voting this season has been pretty accurate. Pedroia and Cano are deserving as well, and if anything it should be Kendrick and Kipnis to round out the top five.