Kinsler named Defensive Player of the Year at second base
DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler finally was rewarded for the season he had at second base. It took a defensive awards system based on statistics to earn him the recognition, honored by Wilson with its Defensive Player of the Year Award for the best second baseman in the Major Leagues.
It's the first major defensive award for Kinsler, who finished behind Boston's Dustin Pedroia for both the American League Gold Glove and Fielding Bible awards at second. Both of those are based in part on voting. The Defensive Player of the Year Awards are entirely statistics-based, using a formula that blends advanced metrics with traditional stats.
On the metrics, Kinsler didn't have to back down to anyone in either league. Under Defensive Runs Saved, created by The Fielding Bible to measure plays a defender makes compared to those made by his peers, Kinsler's plus-20 rating this year not only topped all Major League second basemen, but all AL infielders. His 2.91 Defensive Wins Above Replacement ranked third in the Majors and easily led his position.
Under the more common metric of Ultimate Zone Rating, an effort to measure the number of plays a defender makes within his defensive zone, Kinsler's 13 UZR ranked second at his spot behind Pedroia.
Under more specialized ratings created by Inside Edge for advanced scouting purposes, Kinsler shined by making higher percentage plays. He converted 99 percent of the highest percentage plays, those regarded as 90 percent likely or better. For plays with a usual 60-90 percent success rate for Major League second basemen, Kinsler converted just under 90 percent, which separated him from Pedroia, Colorado's DJ LeMahieu and others.
Kinsler becomes the first Tigers second baseman to win a defensive award since Placido Polanco won the AL Gold Glove in 2009. Polanco remains the Tigers' last Gold Glove winner, which explains in part why Kinsler's arrival was significant to Detroit's success.
While the Tigers remained one of baseball's lesser teams in terms of defensive efficiency, Kinsler stabilized a position that had been in flux since Polanco's departure. While some provided a positive defensive impact, such as Omar Infante the previous two years, others reflected the Tigers' issues up the middle of the infield.
Kinsler arrived to Tigers camp with his best defensive seasons seemingly behind him. He had 22 Defensive Runs Saved in 2009, and 18 two seasons later, but hadn't topped 11 since. His Ultimate Zone Rating had fallen into negative territory the previous two seasons after peaking at 16 in 2011.
With a change of scenery and the guidance of Tigers infield coach Omar Vizquel, the 32-year-old Kinsler thrived.