January 24, 2017
Tale of the Tape
Ian Kinsler vs. Jason Kipnis
Ah, our two favorite alphabetical second basemen: Ian Kinsler and Jason Kipnis. In 2016 both matched and exceeded, respectively, their home run totals from the previous two years en route to each of their second-most valuable seasons in their careers. Both are five-category hitters, albeit modestly, and they project to put up similar batting lines in 2017. They're a comparison worth picking through with a fine-toothed comb.
Given the two are such similar players, I wanted to lead with the issue of playing time volume. Neither is particularly exemplary nor problematic in regard to health, but Kinsler has averaged roughly seven more games per year the last half decade. He also routinely bats first while Kipnis bats second. The playing time difference is marginal but important in such close comparisons; the additional plate appearances account for additional counting stats. Advantage: Kinsler
Ignoring his injury-hampered 2014 season, Kipnis has hit for an above-average BABIP, spraying line drives to all fields as his modus operandi. Kinsler, not so much; his tendencies to pop up and pull the ball eat into his effectiveness on balls in play. Kinsler holds the edge, however, in plate discipline, striking out less often than his contemporary by several percentage points. Perhaps by no coincidence, both experienced spikes in their strikeout rate as their power kept pace with the league-wide surge. (We'll get to this in a second.) Kipnis' was fueled by chasing more pitches outside the zone; Kinsler's, fueled by a sizable dip in contact. What you make of their plate discipline trends depends on what you make of the legitimacy of their power outbursts in 2016. Assuming both sustain or regress, Kinsler's superior contact skills and batting eye hold an edge despite inferior batted-ball skills. Advantage: Kinsler