Surprise positional outlook: Second base
We continue our brief look at the outlook at each position heading into spring training. We'll have more on each position and player once spring training starts, of course. Click here for our first base outlook.
A quick glance at Ian Kinsler's numbers shows a mixed bag. His 31 homers and 86 RBIs were the most of his career (in fact, he had not shown this much power before in the majors with 20 homers in 2007 being his highest output). He had 31 stolen bases, also a career-high, and he had the memorable 6-hit cycle on April 15. But Kinsler also finished the season with a .253 batting average and a .327 on-base percentage. His OBP was ninth among the 10 AL second baseman who had at least 500 at-bats. And he was last in batting average among AL second baseman with at least 500 at-bats.
Kinsler started off the season red hot. He hit .322 in April with seven homers and 20 RBIs and looked like the guy that was an AL MVP candidate in 2008 before an injury prematurely ended his season. But things changed the next three months. Kinsler hit .243 in May, .245 in June and just .157 in July. He was moved from the top of the order in an effort to get him going again.
Kinsler's struggles were part of the entire offense, which had trouble getting much consistency. Kinsler could still hit for power at times, but wasn't collecting the singles and doubles like he was in April or in 2008.
Michael Young, as part of answering questions at The Newberg Report night last week, talked about Kinsler. He was asked who his favorite Ranger was and that was Young's answer. But in the course of talking about Kinsler, he mentioned that Ian told him his 2009 season "wasn't good enough" and that he knew he could be better than that.
Kinsler is focused on being a more productive and consistent player in 2010. We've talked before about the idea that Kinsler and Josh Hamilton may be the two biggest keys to this lineup. They must have better seasons for this offense to get going. (I think they will and that Kinsler will be a solid second baseman, as he has been since coming up to the Rangers, for a long time in Texas. But we'll get to that later this spring).
On defense, Kinsler was improved in 2009. Besides fewer errors -- 11 in 2009 after making 18 in 2008 -- Kinsler's UZR was better as well. Kinsler did a better job of making the routine plays in 2009 and looked comfortable in the field with new double-play partner Elvis Andrus.
It will be interesting to see how Kinsler does to start the season lower in the order. The plan is to have him bat fifth, behind Vladimir Guerrero. That way he's in a position to drive in more runs and it gives the Rangers some speed in the middle of the lineup (to go with speed at the top with Julio Borbon and the bottom with Andrus).
As we've stated before, we'll get to the predictions just before the season starts.
What are your thoughts on second base?
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.