Is Jason Kipnis Just a One Hit Wonder?
Steve Eby | On 18, Oct 2014
Today continues DTTWLN’s three week examination of the Indians’ 2014 season and where it fell short of the playoff expectations established last winter. The staff will examine where the season went wrong and the challenges the front office faces to make the Indians contenders in 2015.
Los Del Rio is famous for doing the Macarena and little else. Soft Cell got famous for Tainted Love while Dexys Midnight Runners used Come on Eileen. Right Said Fred told the world that I’m too Sexy and The Baha Men asked Who Let the Dogs Out?
Just like all of these other one-hit wonders, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis just might still be cashing in on his biggest hit—June of 2013.
It was certainly a good month for Kipnis. In 27 games Kipnis batted .419 with 39 hits, 12 doubles, four homeruns and 25 RBI. He walked 20 times, stole nine bases and had an OPS of 1.216. It raised his batting average from a pedestrian .238 to a very respectable .299. June of 2013 also vaulted Kipnis to his first All-Star Game as he hit safely in 24 of his 27 contests that month.
After the All-Star break, Kipnis’ production tailed off some as the Indians marched toward the postseason. He batted .261 for the remainder of the year, coming back to Earth toward where his career batting average sits at .262.
The 2014 season, however, saw Kipnis crash down to new lows that Cleveland has never seen from him. His triple slash (BA/OBP/SLG) plummeted to career lows at .240/.310/.330. He knocked only six homeruns, drove home just 41 and struck out twice as much as he walked. Kipnis stole just 22 bases as well, marking the first full season that he failed to eclipse 30.
It may be easy to simply look at Kipnis’ 2014 as an aberration, blame it on injuries and call it simply just a bump in the road of a still-promising career; but it’s also easy to look at the season as bad, but not far off from what he has done over the majority of his career.
In June of 2013, Kipnis posted an amazing triple slash line of .419/.517/.699. This month pushed his career line to.262/.338/.398—pretty mediocre numbers to be sure. By comparison, former Indian Ronnie Belliard put up a triple slash line in his career of .273/.338/.419—equaling or bettering Kipnis in each category. Another former second sacker, Tad Iguchi—who was also seen as ‘mediocre at best’—put up an even more similar line of .268/.338/.401; and even these statistics are still slightly better than those for Kipnis.
If Kipnis’ super month is taken out of his career statistics, things get extremely ugly as he posts a triple slash of .253/.327/.381. To compare with some more “historical” figures, this line compares well with that of former Cincinnati part-time starter Eddie Milner (.253/.333/.376), slightly worse than 1990’s utility man Rich Becker (.256/.358/.372), and just ahead of former Royal and Tiger Pat Sheridan (.253/.319/.371). Never heard of these guys? To show what kind of company Kipnis is keeping, those three players started 100 games in a year just seven combined times in their 26 combined seasons.
The point is that for 18 out of approximately 19 months that Kipnis has been a regular in the Indians lineup, he has been extremely mediocre by the numbers. It doesn’t mean that he has no upside—he just turned 27—or that he shouldn’t be starting, but the days of Kipnis hitting in the top three spots in the Tribe lineup need to be over until he proves that he can hit consistently.
After all, we know that sometimes one hit just isn’t enough.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images