Now healthy, Kipnis making his move to stardom
Many felt that 2013 was the breakout season for the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Kipnis, and in all reality it was. But a breakout season doesn’t always guarantee stardom, as evidenced by a difficult 2014 in which Kipnis battled injury while posting arguably the worst numbers of his career.
So was Kipnis’ success in relation to the success of the team, simply riding the wave of a playoff participant?
The answer to that is an emphatic no, as Kipnis has become the star of a team that has the reigning AL Cy Young in Corey Kluber and an MVP finalist from last year in Michael Brantley. If this season is an indication, Kipnis is about to become a bonafide star of the game.
We won’t get into the problems with the All-Star voting, as Kipnis–in my opinion–should have been the starting second baseman for the American League All-Stars last night. While the fans can make a mockery of the voting, the rest of the league knows just how good Kipnis is.
In 2012 and 2013, Kipnis hit 14 and 17 home runs respectively while showing speed and a good glove. He seemed poised to be a 20+ home run guy with good speed, maybe even teasing the chance of a 30/30 club admission. But after the oblique and hamstring injuries derailed the solid follow-up season, Kipnis made adjustments, completely changing his game coming into this season.
I’m 5’10” 1/2, I don’t need to be swinging for 25 home runs in a year. – Jason Kipnis
Goodbye home run hitting Kipnis. Hello .300+ hitting Kipnis.
Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com took a look at the changes Kipnis made, and the results have been apparent. While the thought of hitting 25-30 home runs in a season was nice, he realized his value was hitting the ball to all fields, and has lowered his hands in his stance to allow him the opportunity to get to more pitches.
"“This game is about constant adjustments,” he said. “I shortened up my swing and have gotten my hands in a better place which has gotten me more time to recognize pitches. I don’t worry about home runs, I’m 5’10” 1/2, I don’t need to be swinging for 25 home runs in a year. What works for me is going to the opposite field and staying through the ball. Sticking with that approach has been working for me.”"
He currently sits third in average, chasing the Rangers’ Prince Fielder and the currently injured Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. His name litters the top 10 in many offensive categories, including being tied in doubles (27), second in hits (112), and fourth in triples (6).
Kipnis was an All-Star for the second time in three years, and it’s hard to think that if not for injury last season, this year would have been the third straight. He’s one of the good guys in baseball and is a key piece of the Indians core.
The team finds itself at a crossroads of buyer/seller, contender/pretender. One thing’s for certain, when they become the former and not the latter of those two, he’s going to be one of the reasons why.