August 26, 2014

Jason Kipnis, All-Star?

Jason KipnisIt’s an annual exercise in disappointment. When the updated All-Star balloting was released earlier this month, only Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds were among the top-five at their respective positions. The voting that had taken place prior to this release largely occurred during a run where the Indians could not lose. The starting pitchers were motoring, the bullpen was a revolving door full of fastball Fort Knox, walk-offs were the new normal. The Indians, however, had just two players get even a cursory nod among fan voters. Wins, typically, command some sort of respect, but hey…

This is to be expected given the (much-discussed) attendance issues coupled with overall market size. The days of having an entire team of All-Star players are long gone and, as history has shown, New York- and Boston-based players litter All-Star rosters regardless of the fact that they may or may not be playing at a caliber worthy of the Mid-Summer Classic. All it takes is one quick look, however, at it does appear that the fans have done thier homework thus far, passing up big names like Pujols and Ellsbury and Hamilton for more deserving players like Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Manny Machado1. But another player who deserves to have his name among the top of his peer group is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.

While the rest of his teammates have regressed to more human-like levels, and the overall record doing the same,  the former second-rounder has taken his slow start this season (he hit .200 through April) and quietly catapulted himself to being one of the best secong basemen in the American League. Over the course of the last six weeks, Kipnis—Dirtbag, The JK Kid, whatever—has hit .292 with an OPS just under .900. He’s third on the Indians in hits, second in runs scored and second in OPS2 behind only Santana.

To compare Kipnis to other second basemen in the American Leauge, his numbers stand out just the same. While April was undoubtedly a bit of a drag on Kipnis’ counting stats, he’s just 0.1 WAR points (2.0) behind the position’s overall All-Star leader in New York’s Robinson Cano (2.0). He’s ahead of Detroit’s Omar Infante and Houston’s Jose Altuve, both of whom are currently ahead of Kipnis in the vote-getting. Texas’ Ian Kinsler, arguably one of the best second basemen in baseball, has been hampered by a rib injury and was just activated from the disabled list having missed a month of work.

It can be argued that none of Kipnis’ statistics really stand out to be considered an All-Star. However, a deeper dive shows that he trails only Cano in isolated power and home runs while leading all second basemen in stolen bases. His five tools have been fully on display, being among the top five in fielding metrics as well as SABR-heavy batting metrics like wOBA. For Indians fans, Kipnis clutch hitting is even more of a reason for a nod given that his game-winner this past weekend against the Nationals was his second walk-off hit of this young season.

Having little-to-no chance at gaining any traction in the fan vote, it will be up to Kipnis to keep his level of play elevated enough to garner consideration from the coaches. Detroit’s Jim Leyland will be captaining the good ship AL, so things could get interesting if the AL Central foe opts for his own player in Infante despite all of the numbers heavily suggesting that Kipnis is the better player thus far through 2013. While the Indians’ representative(s) in New York remain to be seen, fact of the matter is that the All-Star game is less than one month away, and Jason Kipnis deserves the chance to be the first Indians first-year player draftee to make an AL All-Star team since CC Sabathia in 20073.

Image: Scott Sargent/WFNY

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Footnotes:

  1. It could also be argued that this is merely Orioles fans coming out in droves as Davis and Machado are joined by Matt Weiters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and JJ Hardy as being among the top-three at their respective positions. []
  2. Among those with at least 150 at-bats []
  3. Fausto Carmona made it in 2010, but he was not a part of the first-year player draft []
  • LesFleursDuMal

    Yeah, watching Kipnis strike out twice with the bases loaded last night . . .

  • JHop

    The Orioles players deserve all those votes though. Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Matt Weiters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and JJ Hardy all have outplayed their positional counterparts on the Indians thus far this season. The only one where you could argue otherwise is the Santana-Weiters matchup, but for all the others it’s case closed.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kipnis and Masterson should represent the Tribe.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Davis is having an unreal season looks like he’s living up to those expectations. Machado is on his way to stardom, Jones is a beast, Weiters solid and Markakis when healthy contributes nicely. Hardy is really the only guy who doesn’t belong. He provides power and RBI but it’s Reynoldsesque.

  • JHop

    Looking at the SS position in the AL this year, the only guy you could say is playing better than Hardy is Peralta. Also, Reynolds only has 1 more home run and 3 more RBIs than Hardy at this point.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The SS position ain’t what it used to be in the AL that’s for sure. Still of everyone you named for the Orioles Hardy is the low man on the totem pole.

  • mgbode

    when you add Hardy’s defense, he smokes Peralta.

  • JHop

    I agree with that. I don’t know if it’s more of a testament to the O’s depth or the weakness in the SS position that the potential AL All-Star starter at the position typically bats somewhere in the 6-8 range on a daily basis.

  • mgbode

    I’d go with Markakis. Hardy is a really, really good player. He plays special defense at a critical position and justifies a lineup position with his bat as well. He’s not the typical hitting SS, but getting power numbers & very good defense there is something I would take anyday.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Hardy and Markakis both won’t make it not with Jim Johnson around too.

  • jaker

    Of the players that could represent the Tribe, we have Santana, Masterson, Reynolds, McCallister and Kipnis. No other player should make the All Star team.

    Reynolds had his shot, but with his regression in BA and overall run production, coupled with the competition at 1B, he cannot make the team.

    Z-Mac hit the DL and is competing with Aces. Sorry bud.

    Kip will have trouble making the team, as it is almost a certain that Cano will win the fan vote, and I doubt that Pedroia is left off. If they decide to keep 3 second baseman, he will have to impress over the next month, maybe getting up to .280 and 13-14 HRs with 40+ RBIs. It can happen, but it will be hard.

    Santana had the BA(No More!) that would suggest the second Catcher, but like Kip, he’s probably the 3rd on a list of 2 now. Mauer/Wieters are probably the two now, but he can certainly pass them if we start winning and he bumps up his RBIs and BA. Possible, but once again, very hard.

    So we are down to Masterson. All signs point to him as a fringe All Star, but he leads in innings pitches, is way up in K’s, and he can still bring down his ERA over the next 5 starts before they decide. He’s our guy. He’s an Ace, and he will probably be the lone Indian barring some awesome turnaround

  • mgbode

    it could turn out that way, but I think Santana ends up making it. alot of really good pitching performances added in with an inherent need to limit the amount from any one team will help his chances.

  • Kildawg

    All-Star teams USUALLY carry 3 catchers, giving Santana a legitimate chance. Masterson has flexibility for a starter since he has also worked in relief, which boost his chances. In addition, EVERY team NEEDS ONE representative, meaning Kip could be squeezed for Altuve, or Castro gets the nod as one of the C, meaning Weiters or Santana get squeezed.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    He always looks so nervous in those situations… I know he’s had a walk-off or two this season, but I don’t get the warm fuzzies when I see him up with the game on the line.