It was May 16, a game that was more about Yu Darvish throwing 130 pitches in a 10-4 win than it was anything else, that Ian Kinsler made his last start for the Rangers. He had an awkward slide in that game, but Kinsler ended up with an intercostal muscle strain and later had a setback with a stress reaction that has lengthened his time on the disabled list.
Kinsler did pinch run before going on the DL, but he hasn't started since that May 16 game. The Rangers since that point: 10-11.
It's no coincidence.
The numbers tell the story here. I think fans don't fully appreciate Kinsler and what he means to this lineup. Part of that is his penchant for pop-ups in recent years, though we haven't seen nearly as much of that in 2013. He's a versatile leadoff hitter who can beat you with power, patience and speed. When he's playing well, it trickles down to the rest of the lineup. When he's not in there? It's clearly a different Rangers offense.
On May 16, the Rangers were 27-14 and had a seven-game lead over the Seattle Mariners and a 7 1/2-game lead on the A's. The Rangers hit .267 as a team with a .331 on-base percentage and scored an average of 4.7 runs per game.
Since Kinsler's absence, the Rangers are hitting .261 as a team and are averaging just 4.2 runs per game -- yes, half a run is significant. They have a .316 on-base percentage. And the lead in the AL West is just a half-game over the A's through Sunday.
As for the leadoff spot, Kinsler was batting .302 with a .369 on-base percentage, seven homers and 20 RBIs. He had scored 24 runs before the injury. He's still tied for the league-lead in homers among leadoff hitters despite starting just 39 games. Amazingly, he's still in the top-10 in runs scored despite all the time missed.
Without Kinsler, the Rangers' leadoff spot has belonged to Elvis Andrus. He is batting .227 with nine RBIs and 13 runs scored. He has just three extra-base hits in 21 games as the leadoff hitter. His on-base percentage is .293. Not even close to the same production, is it?
With Kinsler on the DL, the Rangers have scored three or fewer runs 12 times in 21 games. They did it 15 times in the first 41 games before Kinsler went out.
So while the pitching injuries have been tough and losing Mitch Moreland certainly won't help, the toughest injury dealt to this club this season so far is Kinsler.
They need him back. Quickly.