Jason Kipnis, the much beloved second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, has not been the same as of late.  Along with the decreased productivity (see table below), two separate elbow injuries have plagued Kipnis in his attempt to repeat his first half feats of 2012.  What exactly is wrong with Kip?  While professing not to be clairvoyant, I believe the answer lies in the numbers.  If we look below, we can see the difference in production between Jason’s hot start and recent cold spell.











2011-2012 ASB










2012 ASB-Now










2011-2012 All-Star Break

Now obviously, Kip has been an extremely less productive hitter.  Nevertheless, one thing he has not been is less selective at the plate; in fact, he has been even more selective at the dish.  What often plagues players in a slump is the desire to rip at whatever they see to get out of the aforementioned slump.  However, as shown on the chart, his SO/BB dropped rather significantly and his OBP did not drop in correlation with his hitting statistics.  In addition, the rate at which Kipnis chases pitches only rose 1.2 % between the two periods, leading one to conclude that Kipnis did not become wild with his swing selection.  Another factor that can be eliminated from the realm of possibilities is pitch selection by the opposing pitcher.  Kipnis is a notorious fastball hitter, yet between the two aforementioned periods, there was only very slight (more or less negligible) difference between what the opposing pitcher was throwing.

Across the board, no matter what variables were put into comparing these two time frames, Kipnis’ production severely dropped.  However, it simply comes down to the flyballs that Kipnis was hitting simply for extra-base hits are not getting down deep in the outfield or over the fence.  Between his hot and cold spells, his HR/FB dropped from 13.2% to 4.2%.  This is more easily personified in the follow graphs, which detail all flyballs Kipnis connected for hits over the times.

Flyballs 2011-2012 ASBFlyballs 2012 ASB-Current

From these graphs, one can conclude that Kipnis is just not hitting the ball hard enough.  This could surely be a causation for his drop in BAbip (from .306 to .267), along with his decline in production in general.  What is causing Kipnis to stray from his power hitting ways?

Jason Kipnis was one of two Cleveland Indians (along with Shin-Soo Choo) who played in 150+ games last season; he also went to the plate 672 times as well in his first full season in the MLB.  Fatigue surely set in last season, and his (over)use could have led to his elbow problems.  It surely is not easy for anyone not named Bryce Harper or Mike Trout to get used to the MLB as if it is nothing.  Overall, fatigue explains Jason’s problem, which not only leads to physical problems but also technical problems in a player’s swing.  One stat that did seem alarmingly was that Kipnis’ rate of hitting balls to the opposite field dipped 16.5%, showing that he was trying to pull the ball too much.

However, wouldn’t a full offseason to rest and train have gotten Kipnis back on track?  I believe Kipnis’ problems are multi-faceted.  A lack of confidence has shone through in his play and could be a cause of his poor play.  Even this spring, Kipnis struggled mightily against mainly AAA quality pitchers.  He easily did the worst out of all everyday position players, batting .179 (10-56) with 2 HR and 7 RBI.  Moreover, starting this season, Kipnis has batted .125 with 11 strikeouts through eight games before recently being sidelined with an elbow injury.  Kipnis cannot be fatigued at this point in the season, and it is not as if pitchers have found some secret for success against him.  I believe his slide last season has contributed mentally to his own woes in 2013.

So what can be done about this?  I suggest that the Indians place Kipnis on the 15-day DL, freeing up a needed roster spot while letting Kipnis heal and getting personalized work in to rediscover his swing.  Some rehab games in the minors can do nothing but help Kipnis find what he has been missing.  Getting him some rest is surely a priority, and both Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn are capable of spelling Kipnis for any period.

Something else that can be done to help relax Kipnis at the plate is to temporarily drop him in the batting order to take the pressure off him.  However, sticking the The Book and working through the difficulties each individual player is having while keeping the same batting order seems to be the best policy.  However, I would love to see Kipnis batting sixth.  This would keep him in a relevant run-producing spot while being able to utilize his speed in front of the least efficient hitters in the lineup.  Alas, that is a discussion for another for article.

Overall, Kipnis is much too important to this offense to rush him back into the fold.  In order for the Indians to be successful in 2013, they will need a healthy and productive 2013 out of Jason Kipnis.

Graphs via ESPN Tru Media, also thanks to Ryan of Let’s Go Tribe and Oleg Molotkovskiy.

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