IKF under radar: 'I make plays look too easy'

June 17th, 2021

On Monday, Major League baseball announced the leaders in the 2021 All-Star Game voting. According to Rangers players and coaches, there was a notable player missing -- shortstop .

The only Rangers player among the top five vote-getters at his position was , who sat fourth among American League outfielders. Kiner-Falefa was ranked 11th among American League shortstops.

“I know it’s sometimes a popularity contest, some people vote more than others, but this guy’s consistency probably hurts him,” said manager Chris Woodward. “Kiner is a good ballplayer every day.

“If you watch him every day or just look at the statistics analytically or old school, he’s just good in every way -- stolen bases, average, WAR, defensive metrics, all these things point to the fact that this guy is a top-three shortstop in baseball, in the American League, especially.”

Kiner-Falefa said that though it may be part popularity contest with the fan voting portion of the All-Star Game, he doesn’t think he needs to change anything about how he goes about his game to appeal to the general public.

Advanced defensive metrics vary. Statcast’s outs above average has Kiner-Falefa ranked sixth among AL shortstops, but Fangraphs’ defensive runs saved has him ranked second. Woodward said the eye test shows that Kiner-Falefa is more than capable and has earned the opportunity to be an All-Star.

“I make plays look too easy,” Kiner-Falefa said about people overlooking his defense. “They use [things] like sliding backwards, falling over off-balance to make plays. I think I make plays that look routine. Other guys don’t. That’s the way I was taught to play the game, and I won’t change.”

Added Woodward: “Really, really good players make the difficult plays look easy. He gets frustrated at times, but I tell him nobody in our organization is fooled by any of that. I look at him as the best in the American League.”

Defense has always been a strength of Kiner-Falefa’s game, but he isn’t slacking at the plate either. Heading into Wednesday, he had a slash line of .290/.328/.409 with a .736 OPS and 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

Kiner-Falefa ranks among the MLB shortstop leaders in stolen bases (first), hits (second, 78), runs scored (sixth, 38) and bWAR (third, 2.9).

“It’s frustrating,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I feel like I've been putting a pretty good year together. And to not get noticed, it's kind of a slap in the face, especially in that fashion. … I don't have the home run numbers like everybody else does, but looking at my all-around game, I feel like I'm stacked up with the best of them.”

Fan voting will continue through June 24 before another round to determine the starters.

“He deserves more credit than he gets,” said Rangers outfielder . “I would be upset if I was in his situation, as well. I mean, he's one of the best shortstops in the AL and in the game. So he deserves a lot more respect than he's getting, and, hopefully, soon he’ll start getting it.”