Kipnis’ early struggles
Jason Kipnis has been the victim of some mystifying bad luck for the first two months. He’s rocking a career-high 36.8 percent hard-hit rate, and his 34.6 percent pull rate would be a career low were it to continue, indicating he’s trying to use the whole field. His hard-hit numbers are reflective of his 2016 season in which he hit 23 home runs and had an OPS of .811, but Kipnis has been unable to catch a break in 2018.
Strikeouts continue to be a problem for the second baseman as well, as he’s taking the lonely walk back a regrettable 20.2 percent of the time, but he also has a 10.4 percent walk rate that would be his best since 2013.
The easier-said-than-done elixir to what ails Kipnis at the moment is to simply hit ’em where they ain’t. If he continues to make good contact, the law of (batting) averages demands that the baseball gods eventually smile favorably upon him.
But here’s another interesting revelation in Kipnis’ advanced numbers: 2013 was in fact his best year as far as drawing walks, but it was also the year in which he posted his worst strikeout percentage (21.7) over a full season of plate appearances. In 2018, he is on pace to come close to repeating both numbers.
Coincidentally, 2013 was also the last time Kipnis swung at less than 60 percent of pitches inside the zone and 40 percent of pitches overall–until 2018. Having offered at just 59.8 percent of pitches in the zone and 41 percent of pitches overall, Kipnis is displaying a level of plate discipline we haven’t seen from him in five years.
Drawing walks is great for the Indians in the long run, but with a .266 OBP, maybe the answer in the short term is for Kipnis to get a little more aggressive at the plate.
In any case, there is too much evidence in the advanced numbers, both from this season and in seasons past, to suggest that Kipnis’ .176 batting average is just who he is now.
Final Verdict: Madness