Ian Kinsler Compared to a Good Dustin Pedroia Season

Note: I made a huge screw-up, and for whatever reason, I didn’t catch it, but Dustin Pedroia didn’t win the MVP award in 2011. He won it in 2008. I’m an idiot. Please try to enjoy the praise of Ian Kinsler without regard for the fact that the primary point of the post is wrong.

Over the weekend, the All-Star rosters were announced, and Ian Kinsler‘s name was not among the participants. This probably isn’t a huge shock, given that Robinson Cano is one of the game’s most visible stars and Jose Altuve leads the league in batting average. Kinsler’s value has always been less obvious than many bigger name stars.

But just for fun, I’d like to offer a comparison between Kinsler’s 2014 season and a recent season from a second baseman that resulted in an MVP award resulted in a ninth place finish and this writer looking like a moron. For the sake of the comparison, Kinsler’s numbers have been extrapolated out to match the same number of plate appearances as Pedroia received that year.

Season Name PA H 1B 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO HBP SB CS
2011 Dustin Pedroia 731 195 134 37 3 21 102 91 86 85 1 26 8
2014 Ian Kinsler 731 206 131 50 4 21 116 87 35 75 6 17 6

If Kinsler sustained this pace all year and ended up with the same 731 plate appearances that Pedroia racked up three years ago, he’d finish with more hits and more extra base hits than Pedroia got in the year he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. He’d score more runs and have essentially the same number of RBIs. Really, the only significant advantage Pedroia would have is the 50 extra walks, which drive a much higher on base percentage than Kinsler is posting at the moment. But even when you look at rate stats rather than extrapolated counting numbers, the lines are similar.

Season Name AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2011 Dustin Pedroia 0.307 0.387 0.474 0.375 133
2014 Ian Kinsler 0.302 0.339 0.480 0.357 125

Yes, Pedroia has the big OBP advantage, but the changes in league run scoring and the differences in their home parks make up for a decent amount of that gap. By wRC+, which adjusts for both league averages and park factors, Pedroia’s offensive edge is fairly minimal. And even that advantage starts to erode once you include baserunning value, as Kinsler is already at +2.9 runs on the bases this year, while Pedroia was basically a league average runner in 2011.

Let’s go back to the extrapolated totals, only focusing on the components of WAR.

Season Name Batting Base Running Fielding Positional WAR
2011 Dustin Pedroia 27.9 0.3 18.1 2.4 7.6
2014 Ian Kinsler 20.8 5.8 12.4 2.5 7.1

Pedroia’s hitting is more valuable, thanks to the extra 50 walks, but note that Kinsler basically wipes out the battind difference with his baserunning. Now, sure, baserunning is a thing that not a lot of people care about, but then again, so are walks. Pedroia was particularly good at one of the undervalued ways of helping a team score runs; Kinsler has been good at the other one.

UZR liked Pedroia’s defense more than it likes Kinsler’s this year, and I don’t think there’s much of a question that Pedroia is the superior defender. Extrapolating half a season of UZR is not good analysis, so don’t take this as evidence that Kinsler is as good defensively as Pedroia is. He’s not, and I’m not trying to say he is.

But I do think it’s worth pointing out that, even if you think Kinsler’s defensive value is being overstated here, his overall season numbers to this point are not much different than what half a season of Pedroia’s year looked like. I don’t really care much that he didn’t make the All-Star team, but we’ve recognized the value of seasons like this before, and we should be able to do it again.

All-Star or not, MVP vote getter or not, Ian Kinsler is one of the primary reasons the Detroit Tigers are a good team again. While the most obviously beneficial part of the off-season trade that brought him to Detroit was dumping Prince Fielder‘s contract, getting Kinsler in return might prove to be just as big a steal.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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