I was lucky enough to see Ian Kinsler play one more time, this time actually out west when I happened to be in San Francisco for a conference during the first week of the season, playing for the Padres. I caught him once more the year prior, that time beating up on the Yankees in the 2018 ALDS where he hit .308.
Those last few years were always a “huh” moment—weird for seeing him in a different uniform other than Texas or Detroit, odd that he even has a job in 2018-19 given his 85 OPS+ over his final three seasons, and also a time warp in of itself, as if staring at him slap a single is being teleported to a time where you remember watching, say, Hank Blalock or Gerald Laird.
Those latter names just make you appreciate how long Kinsler really has been in the league; in fact, during a time when age-40 players are basically non-existent, he represented (minimum 250 plate appearances) the fourth-oldest player in the league behind Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz, and Albert Pujols (who is largely active because of his contract alone).
Then you take the 50,000-foot look at Kinsler’s career, and you see the type of career that, pretty easily, would have caused serious consideration for the Hall of Fame once upon a time. Let’s look at three players:
- Player A: .288/.362/.461, 2042 hits, 51.2 WAR
- Player B: .269/.337/.440, 1999 hits, 57.2 WAR
- Player C: .260/.299/.367,2016 hits, 36.5 WAR
Two of those players are Hall of Famers, as you can imagine. Player A is Bobby Doerr, who played from 1937 until 1951, and Player C is Bill Mazeroski, who’s probably a lesser example because his case was largely one big moment wrapped around an otherwise underwhelming career.
Yet the point still stands with respect to Player B, or Ian Kinsler. It has gotten harder and not easier to even sniff the Hall, and I’m nearly sure Kinsler will fall into the latter despite easily having a better career than Doerr or Mazeroski strictly by the numbers.
In a way, it says something funny about what the Hall of Fame actually used to be. Was it some sacred, near-mythical entity that weighed your soul upon entry? No, in fact it was the earliest form of Remembering Some Guys. There were at least seven second basemen alone with a lower JAWS than Kinsler who made the Hall, and you can probably see a glimpse of some alternate reality Hall of Fame when you look at the leaderboards for the best players since 2006 when Kinsler began his career.
In that span Kinsler has more fWAR than: David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, and basically even with Joe Mauer. He trails Andrew McCutchen, Pujols, and Evan Longoria by a few wins.
In another age, some of those (other than Mauer) would likely make their way in. Pedroia has a World Series pedigree and an MVP; Wright was a 50+ WAR player and Mets franchise icon; Longoria could be thought of similarly as a Tampa Bay Ray.
The point is: Kinsler may have spent the last few years being our “huh” guy for acting surprised that he’s still around, but he’s really more than that. He was basically one of the fifteen best position players on the planet over the last 15 years, and despite not being a Hall of Famer or even getting the single hit to get to 2000, we will certainly Remember This Guy.