Ian Kinsler

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Ian Michael Kinsler

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Biographical Information[edit]

Ian Kinsler-6437.jpg

Out of high school, Ian Kinsler was picked in the 29th round of the 2000 amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks but did not sign. After a year of junior college, the Diamondbacks again drafted him, this time in the 22nd round of the 2001 amateur draft. In 2002, he hit .230/.246/.262 for Arizona State University. Transferring to Mthe University of Missouri, he batted .335/.416/.536 with 16 steals in 17 tries and was picked by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round of the 2003 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Mike Grouse and made his pro debut that summer.

Kinsler hit .277/.352/.410 for the Spokane Indians as the starting shortstop. In 2004, Ian had a huge year and was named the Rangers' Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .401/.465/.687 in 60 games for the Clinton Lumber Kings and .300/.400/.480 in 71 outings for the Frisco RoughRiders. Overall, he had 51 doubles, 20 homers, 103 runs, 99 RBI and 23 steals. He was 7th in the minor leagues in average (.345) and tied with Josh Kroeger for the most doubles. He was named to the Midwest League team at shortstop. Baseball America rated him the 11th-best prospect in the minors, the #8 prospect in the MWL and the #9 prospect in the Texas League.

In 2005, the 22/23-year old produced at a .274/.348/.464 rate for the Oklahoma RedHawks, swiping 12 in 14 tries, driving in 94, homering 23 times and scoring 102 runs in 131 games while moving to second base. He led the Pacific Coast League in putouts (276), assists (413), errors (20) and double plays (112) at second base, but lost out the All-Star spot to league MVP Andy Green.

Kinsler hit .256/.293/.487 in 10 games for Oklahoma in 2006, spending most of the year with the 2006 Rangers and batting a fine .308/.371/.480 as one of the AL's top rookies through August 16. He slipped a bit after that but finished at .286/.347/.454, pretty good for a second baseman in the 2006 AL. Kinsler batted .263/.355/.441 for the 2007 Rangers with 20 home runs and 23 steals (in 25 tries). He had a 109 OPS+.

Ian improved in 2008, hitting .319/.375/.517 with 41 doubles, 18 home runs, 102 runs and 26 stolen bases (he was only caught twice). He was 4th in the 2008 AL in average, only .009 behind Joe Mauer, the leader. He was 8th in OPS, tied Michael Young for 8th in runs, was 10th in steals, 9th in OPS+ and 11th in doubles. He made his first All-Star squad, one of three Jewish players in the 2008 All-Star Game alongside Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Braun. In the game, he pinch-ran for Joe Mauer in the second inning and stole second. He stayed in the game at second, replacing Dustin Pedroia, and would go 1 for 5.

Early in 2009, Kinsler had a historic day at the plate. On April 15, he was 6 for 6 and hit for the cycle in a 19-6 rout of the Orioles. This was the first time a player had gone 6-for-6 and hit for the cycle in a 9-inning game since Farmer Weaver in 1890. While his overall batting line fell to .253/.327/.488 for a 107 OPS+, he did put together a 30-30 season with 31 homers and 31 steals (in 36 tries). He also had 101 runs and 86 RBI. He became the third second baseman in MLB history to have a 30-30 year, following contemporaries Alfonso Soriano and Brandon Phillips. He was 10th in the 2009 AL in runs and 7th in stolen bases.

Ian slumped to 9 homers, 45 RBI and 15 steals (in 20 tries) in 2010 but lifted his average to .286 and OBP to .386; his slugging fell to .412. By reaching base more, he improved his OPS+ to 113, but he did not make the top 10 in any category this time. He backed up Robinson Cano in the 2010 All-Star Game. In that contest, he drew a walk from Adam Wainwright, then flew out against Jonathan Broxton to end a 3-1 loss for the AL. He hit three homers in the first round of the playoffs but was just 3 for 16 in the 2010 World Series as Texas fell shy of a World Series title.

Kinsler led off the first two games of the 2011 season with home runs, the first player to MLB history to do so. He took Jon Lester deep in the opener and John Lackey in game two. He hit only .255 that year, but with a career-high 32 homers, 121 runs scored and 77 RBI in 155 games. He hit very well in the postseason, going 4 for 16 with 2 doubles and a homer as Texas defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, then 7 for 24 (.292) with 6 runs and 6 RBI in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, and finally 9 for 25 (.360) in the 2011 World Series as the Rangers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in agonizing fashion in seven games. He had another good year with the bat in 2012, making the All-Star team for the third time on the strength of a .256 average, 46 doubles, 19 homers, 105 runs and 72 RBIs. The Rangers stumbled down the stretch however to be overtaken by the Oakland A's on the last day of the season, forcing them to play the Wild Card Game, which they lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1, on October 5th. Kinsler went 2 for 3 with a walk and scored his team's lone run in the game. Playing 136 games in 2013, Kinsler saw his batting average improve to .277, to which he added 31 doubles, 13 homers and 72 RBIs, but the Rangers once again finished behind the Athletics in the standings, and this time lost a one-game playoff to the Rays to see their season end disappointingly early.

On November 20, 2013, Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers in return for slugging All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder. He was an All-Star in his first season with Detroit in 2014, when he hit .275 with 40 doubles, 17 homers, 100 runs and 92 RBIs in 161 games. He led the AL with 726 plate appearances and 684 at-bats, a result of playing just about every game and hitting second in the line-up. In the postseason, he was part of a team-wide hitting slump however, as he was limited to a 1 for 13 performance as the Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in three games in the Division Series. In 2015, the Tigers fell to last place in the AL Central after getting off to an excellent start, but Ian was one of the few players who did not miss a beat. He hit .296 in 154 games, with 35 doubles and 11 homers, with 94 runs and 73 RBIs. While his counting stats were down somewhat compared to his first season in Detroit, his OPS+ was up, from 103 to 113. He followed that in 2016 with a .288 average, coupled with 28 homers, 117 runs and 83 RBIs in 153 games. Once again, he was among the most productive hitters on a team that was never really in the postseason race. He also won his first Gold Glove that season.

In 2017 Kinsler's production fell among rumors that he was going to be traded given the Tigers were now committed to a rebuild, but he was still with the team in August. On August 15th, the usually soft-spoken player made some very harsh comments about umpire Angel Hernandez, after having been ejected by him for asking questions regarding the strike zone the night before. This was not a spur of the moment passionate rant, but a measured reflection on whether Hernandez had what it takes to be a major league umpire at this point, given his complete inability to have a discussion about his decisions with anyone, and also ranged into the need for a system to hold umpires accountable for their on-field performance. As he explained: "It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does." He then added: "If I get fined for saying the truth, then so be it. He’s messing with baseball games, blatantly.” The comments did not lead to prolonged animosity between the two, as in the game of August 16h, he had an on-field conversation with Hernandez which ended with the two shaking hands. Kinsler expected to be suspended, but he was only fined for his statements, something which angered the World Umpires Association; a number of its members wore wristbands in solidarity to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of significant consequences for abuse against their members. He finished the year at .236 with 22 homers and 52 RBIs in 139 games in what was his worst major league season. The Tigers had begun to rebuild in earnest in the second half of the season, trading away OFs J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton and P Justin Verlander, and Kinsler was next to go, being traded to the Los Angeles Angels on December 13th in return for two prospects, P Wilkel Hernandez and OF Troy Montgomery.

Kinsler didn't last a whole year in Anaheim. With the Angels' season going poorly in 2018, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox on July 30th for minor league pitchers Williams Jerez and Ty Buttrey. He was hitting .239 with 13 homers in 91 games after a very poor start that had him down to .179 on May 28th. The Red Sox were looking for some insurance at second base, with Dustin Pedroia unlikely to play again that season. He hit .242 with just 1 homer in 37 games for Boston but continued playing some solid defence at second base, leading to his winning his second Gold Glove at the end of the season. He did see significant playing time in the postseason, with 11 games and 34 at-bats as Boston won a World Series title. He had 7 hits, including 3 doubles, scored 4 runs and drove in 3. He became a free agent after the season and on December 20t signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Padres worth 8 million. It was a relatively low salary, a reflection of widespread concern that he had lost significant bat speed and may not longer be able to hit enough to justify a starting job in the majors, even if his defensive play was still outstanding. The Padres were mainly interested in a veteran presence to patch them over until some of their better prospects were ready to step in. He played 87 games, hitting .217 with 9 homers and 22 RBIs. On August 16th, he was placed on the injured list with a herniated disk in his back, ending his season - and possibly his career given his advancing age and declining production. Indeed, that December, Kinsler announced his retirement. He was offered a position in the Padres' baseball operations department. He finished exactly one hit short of 2,000, joining Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins as the only players to hold that distinction. The final hit of his career was a homer off Andrew Kittredge of the Tampa Bay Rays on August 12th; interestingly, that homer was recorded as a pitcher, as he was making the first and only presence on the mound of his career, pitching a scoreless 9th inning in a 10-4 blowout loss.

He wasn't quite done with baseball, however, as in March 2021 he announced that he would play for the Israeli national team at the 2020 Olympics (delayed by a year by the Coronavirus pandemic); he had earlier played for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, hitting a homer in the 8-0 win over Puerto Rico that clinched the Gold Medal. He acquired Israeli citizenship to become eligible to represent the country. This was possible because he has Jewish ancestry on his father's side, with both of his grandparents having emigrated from Europe in the 1930s to escape growing antisemitism. His grandfather went by the name "Kunstlich" at the time, but changed it upon arriving in the U.S. He visited Israel just before the pandemic broke, in January 2020, thus making aliyah, an essential step towards obtaining citizenship. He also underwent spine fusion surgery, alleviating his long-standing back pain and allowing him to train again.

From 2020 to 2022, he worked in the front office of the San Diego Padres as a special assistant in the baseball operations department. In 2023, he returned to the Rangers as a special assistant to General Manager Chris Young. But before joining the Rangers, he managed Team Israel in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He had been inducted in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2022.

Sources include 2004-2006 Baseball Almanacs


Kinsler is listed as #18 on the all-time list of second baseman by the JAWS method - there are 20 Hall of Fame second basemen, so clearly Ian ranks higher than several of them. In an announcement of his retirement, one reporter said he had "borderline Hall of Fame credentials", but also said that it was unlikely he would get in [1]. Nevertheless, by JAWS/WAR he ranks higher than Hall of Fame luminaries such as Billy Herman, Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox and Red Schoendienst.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 4-time AL All-Star (2008, 2010, 2012 & 2014)
  • 2-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2016 & 2018)
  • AL At-Bats Leader (2014)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (2007, 2009, 2011, 2016 & 2017)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2009 & 2011)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 & 2016)
  • Won one World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony Fenech: "Kinsler: Umpire 'needs to find another job,' messing with games 'blatantly'", The Detroit Free Press, August 15, 2017. [2]
  • Martin Gallegos: "Kinsler returns to Rangers as special assistant to GM", mlb.com, February 6, 2023. [3]
  • Jon Paul Morosi: "Kinsler to rep Team Israel in Olympic Games", mlb.com, March 14, 2021. [4]
  • Andrew Simon: "4-time All-Star Kinsler announces retirement", mlb.com, December 20, 2019. [5]

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