Another week, another edition of Tale of the Tape. In the first two weeks, we saw Salvador Perez take down Russell Martin, followed by Anthony Rizzo defeating Victor Martinez. This time around, the matchup includes a couple of division rivals at the keystone position. It’s one player who is an established star at the position, and another who broke out in 2014, and is looking to catapult himself into the national conversation in 2015. It’s Ian Kinsler vs. Brian Dozier.
This matchup starts with a relatively predictable category. A year ago, Kinsler took this handily, ending the year with a .275 AVG compared to Dozier’s .242 mark. Kinsler is likely to finish ahead in 2015 as well, as this is Dozier’s weakest area of contribution. He’s scuffled to low BABIPs throughout his three-year MLB tenure to this point, with his career number coming in at .272. He hits well enough to expect that to come up a bit this year, but hoping for anything higher than a .255-.265 AVG (which would be at least 10 points higher than he’s ever posted) would be a fool’s errand. Kinsler, on the other hand, has used his high contact rate to make himself a consistent .270-plus hitter.
Although AVG looked like a clear win for Kinsler, things get a little murkier in OBP. While Dozier has struggled to pile up the hits, he’s made big strides in drawing walks in every year of his career, culminating in a 12.6 percent walk-rate in 2014 and an OBP that was more than 100 points higher than his AVG. Kinsler, on the other hand, watched his plate discipline plummet last year, and finished 38 points behind Dozier in OBP. Although he had held at least a league-average walk-rate through his career, it sunk to just four percent in 2014, and he began swinging at pitches out of the strike zone at a far higher rate than any other point in his career. Early projections have Kinsler taking this category in 2015, but they also assume he’ll be taking the approach he’d taken prior to 2014. With the modest boost expected in Dozier’s AVG, and Kinsler deteriorating plate discipline, I give the former a slight advantage here.
Winner: Dozier, slightly
At a position that contributed fewer home runs than any besides shortstop, Dozier and Kinsler had two of the three highest totals among second baseman. Dozier was tied for first with 23 long balls, while Kinsler finished third with 17. The latter has had some big years in this category in the past, surpassing the 30 mark twice. However, those both came in his younger days while he was playing half of his games in Texas. Over the last few years, he’s settled into a 15-20 homer player. Dozier, on the other hand, has improved here in each of his three years, and finds himself firmly in the prime of his career. On top of that, he’s had a clear advantage over Kinsler in batted-ball distance as well as HR:FB ratio. Though Kinsler has a slight edge with his home park, it’s not enough to project him for a higher home-run total in 2015.
Last season, Kinsler took this category running away, with 92 RBI to Dozier’s 71. Of course, a lot of that had to do with playing in a deeper lineup, although his advantage in doubles and triples played a hand as well. With both players calling the top of their respective lineups home, they rely on the bottom of the lineup to provide them with RBI opportunities. Much like last year, Detroit looks to have a much deeper offense than Minnesota, giving Kinsler many more opportunities with men on base. Although Dozier has the home run advantage, the extra-base hit tally is close to a wash. That, along with the deeper lineup he plays in, gives Kinsler the category.
Just as they both finished at the top of the leaderboard in home runs, Dozier and Kinsler finished 1-2 in runs scored, finishing at 112 and 100, respectively. This is where the former’s OBP advantage becomes huge, as well as the latter’s possible recovery from his patience woes. It’s clear that Kinsler has much better run producers hitting behind him, with guys like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez. Dozier’s supporting cast isn’t nearly as strong, but it’s better than most will likely give credit for. Joe Mauer is still an on-base machine, and Kennys Vargas, Torii Hunter, and Trevor Plouffe can all knock in runs. In addition to that, Dozier is the slightly better baserunner, though both are plus in that area. Still, even with the downturn in walks, Kinsler has a slight edge here, with a potentially large one if he can get his walk-rate back to where it used to be.
After the previous two match ups were between players who will be lucky to steal five bases in 2015, we finally have some actual competition in this category. A year ago, Dozier swiped 21 bags to Kinsler’s 15, though the latter had a slightly better percentage. However, their respective ages come into play here, with Dozier entering his age-28 season, while Kinsler will be 33. On top of that, the Tigers’ second baseman has run less and less in his career, while Dozier’s steal attempts have increased with time. Between the age advantage, the higher OBP and the greater number of attempts, Dozier should take this category once again.
In his professional career, Dozier has been a pinnacle of health, never suffering a major injury since being drafted in 2009. Kinsler has also been relatively healthy in his career, playing in at least 100 games in each of his nine seasons. However, he has had a few DL stints, most recently in 2013 as well as a couple in 2010. While both are good bets to stay healthy for the majority of the season, his youth and clean bill of health in the past give Dozier the edge.
This is another tough category to call, since both players figure to be every day guys in their lineups. Kinsler is not going to lose time in favor of Hernan Perez or Andrew Romine, while the Twins won’t sit Dozier for Eduardo Nunez, Eduardo Escobar, or Eddie Rosario. Since Minnesota doesn’t figure to be in contention, there is some chance they will give Dozier more rest at any sign of wear-and-tear. However, if the Tigers can manage to pull away in the AL Central, they could be more likely to rest Kinsler to keep him fresh for October. It’s basically impossible to call a winner here.
At this point, it’s hard to see Kinsler’s ceiling as much higher than what we’ve seen over the last few years. Sure, he could add some points to his OBP, but his runs total is already near-elite, so there isn’t a ton of room for improvement anywhere. Dozier, on the other hand, could make some huge strides in some areas. Perhaps one of these years he can get his BABIP above the .300 mark, making it possible for him to get his AVG up to the .280-.300 range. His power could continue to improve, too. All of that packaged together could give him a realistic chance at a .290 AVG, 30 HR, 25 SB season, making him one of the best 2B in the game, if not the best. It’s not overly likely, but the ceiling is there and gives him a big advantage here.
In terms of how they fared in the categories, Dozier took a 5-3 win. However, Kinsler making big rebounds in his walk-rate could make this much closer than it appears right now. Still, with Dozier’s age, potential improvements in AVG, and constant improvements in homers and stolen bases, he has the overall advantage in this week’s Tale of the Tape.
And the winner is… Brian Dozier