April 14, 2024

Why Jason Kipnis Will Be an “X-Factor” for the Indians in the Playoffs

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This has been a tough season for Jason Kipnis. He’s batting .229, has an on-base percentage of .316 and has hit 14 home runs with 57 RBI. He often has had difficulties defensively as well, so there is no solace in that. Fans have been calling on Manager Terry Francona to bench him or GM Mike Chernoff to trade him away, or at the very least trade for another bat to allow Kipnis to go to the bench. With the acquisition of 3B Josh Donaldson, Kipnis will not be seeing consistent playing time like he has previously seen.

However, as we head towards the playoffs, I am here to tell you that there is some hope. Jason Kipnis can still contribute and put this bad season behind him. While his .229 batting average is, of course, unacceptable, when you look at his monthly splits, he had one horrible month and the rest were within range of his career .263 batting average. In some months, had Kipnis gotten two or three more hits he would have eclipsed his career numbers.

Month Batting Average
March (7 AB) .429
April (100 AB) .160
May (104 AB) .221
June (79 AB) .266
July (76 AB) .237
August (87 AB) .253

Additionally, looking at how Kipnis has played this season against the other probable AL playoff teams. It has been a mixed bag of success. As it looks like the Indians may be matched up against the Houston Astros in the ALDS, it is nice to see that’s the team Kipnis has had the most success against.

Team Batting Average
Boston (10 AB) .100
Houston (26 AB) .269
New York (23 AB) .087
Oakland (13 AB) .231
Seattle (25 AB) .240

Besides for his general numbers this season against the teams in the playoff hunt, here are Kipnis’ career batting averages against each playoff team’s top three starters. Knowing this information can help Francona decide when best to use Kipnis in playoff games. For example, in a series against the Houston Astros, it may be worthwhile playing Kipnis when Dallas Keuchel pitches as opposed to when Justin Verlander pitches.

Pitcher Batting Average
Chris Sale (BOS) .250
David Price (BOS) .276
Rick Porcello (BOS) .303
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) .292
Gerrit Cole (HOU) .286
Justin Verlander (HOU) .220
Luis Severino (NYY) .000
Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) .313
CC Sabathia (NYY) .143
Sean Manaea (OAK) .000
Edwin Jackson (OAK) .200
Trevor Cahill (OAK) .000
James Paxton (SEA) .500
Felix Hernandez (SEA) .318
Mike Leake (SEA) .250

The statistics lesson aside, veteran players often seem to step up come playoff time. Kipnis has played in 21 playoff games and has only had consistent success in 10 of them. His playoff career batting average of .207 was hurt mightily during last year’s ALDS against the New York Yankees when the entire team began to slump, leading to the Indians losing the series in five games. If Kipnis can bat at least .250 in the playoffs it will go a long way to helping the Indians reach the World Series.

Presuming that Kipnis will be batting 7th, 8th or 9th, if he can get an occasional base-hit it will allow for our best hitters, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez to get more at-bats during the playoffs and they may get the opportunity to bat with runners (Kipnis) on base.

Chances are that Jason Kipnis will have some games where he has the chance to win the game for the Indians and he will get out. That is the reality of baseball; hitters get out more often than they get hits. However, even a small improvement from Kipnis can be the difference between a long playoff run and a quick exit and that is why Kipnis has the opportunity to be the “X-Factor” for the Indians come playoff time.

Image: Fox

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