Kinsler's All-Star-caliber season not reflected by votes
Tigers' RBI leader falls out of top five among AL second basemen
DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler turned 34 years old last Wednesday. He's playing a position where the mid-30s is usually a time to retreat to other spots on the field or plan for retirement.
At this point, Kinsler would not be out of line to plan an All-Star Game trip. Going by the latest results with a few days left to vote, it will not be a starting role. Yet while Kinsler has fallen out of the top five in AL All-Star balloting at second base, he's in the top five in most statistical categories.
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At his age, he's enjoying a standout season.
"He's been pretty darn good since he got here," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said last week. "I know last year he struggled early in the year, but his body of work in a Tiger uniform, it's pretty good on both sides of the ball. And I guess it's remarkable because he's aged and he continues to maintain it."
Of the 22 Major League second basemen with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title, only the Dodgers' Chase Utley (37 years old), the Cubs' Ben Zobrist (who turned 35 last month) and the Reds' Brandon Phillips (who turns 35 on Tuesday) are older than Kinsler. Robinson Cano is four months younger.
Of those 22, Kinsler ranks sixth with an .837 OPS. Only Cano and Jose Altuve top him among his AL peers. Kinsler ranks third in Wins Above Replacement by the baseball-reference formula, and fifth by the Fangraphs formula.
Kinsler has done nearly all of his production from the leadoff spot, where his age puts him in rarer company. Among the 17 players with a qualifying number of plate appearances batting first, only Utley and former Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson are older. Kinsler entered Monday ranked fifth of the 17 in OPS.
Kinsler is in the odd spot of leading his team in RBIs -- a team with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Upton among those batting behind him -- while setting the table for Detroit. It's not that he's enjoying a ton of at-bats with runners in scoring position, but he's batting .339 (21-for-62) with 10 extra-base hits when he does.
"He's kind of the catalyst of this team, really," Ausmus said.
And yet, with All-Star balloting nearing an end, he's currently out of the top five. Among those ahead of him is Omar Infante, who is looking for a job after being released by the Royals, and Ryan Goins, currently a backup infielder in Toronto with former Tigers prospect Devon Travis taking over at second base.
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At this point, the Tigers' best hope for an All-Star starter remains Cabrera, whose deficit to Eric Hosmer among All-Star first basemen has shrunk under 550,000 votes. Martinez remains fourth among designated hitters, while Nick Castellanos has held onto his fifth-place spot at third base.
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