Don’t print the obituary for Jason Kipnis just yet. Rumors of his demise may have been greatly over-exaggerated.
The bar for expectations was set very low for the Indians embattled second baseman heading into the 2019 season. Following two lackluster and injury plagued seasons in 2017 and 2018, no one was hoping for a great or even good season for Kipnis. The majority of the Indians fan base was simply hoping for competent.
Hit a few homers…
Drive in a fair share or runs…
Hit above .250…
That’s all anyone was hoping for. If Kipnis could provide some semblance of a positive offensive impact while also providing the strong veteran presence (#VeteranPresents) this team needed, his most likely final season in an Indians uniform would be a success.
For the first two months of the season it was a swing and a miss.
Heading into June, Kipnis was slashing an abysmal .230/.292/.336 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He was well on his way to another sub-100 OPS+ campaign. His exit from Cleveland was destined to end with more of a whimper and less of a bang.
Then a funny thing happened. The calendar flipped from May to June. And just like that, Jason Kipnis turned back the clock in a huge way. Look at these numbers!
Now here’s the thing. Everyone is saying these numbers are surprising, but are they really? Stick with me here, we’re going on a journey.
Take a look at the numbers from Jason Kipnis’ entire 2018 season:
While it’s easy to dismiss Jason Kipnis’ 2018 campaign when taken in as a whole. It really was a tale of two halves. I use the word halves loosely as the dates in the stats below do not represent a first and second half of the season. Instead they are simply before an after points. The information is no less interesting. As Matt Bretz pointed out on Twitter.
So it would seem that maybe Jason Kipnis isn’t as washed up as it may seem. When you look into what exactly he has done over the course of the past season and a half, it is very clear that as the weather begins to warm so does Jason Kipnis’ bat.
It should come as no surprise that Kipnis’ hot streak also coincides with the recent hot streak by the Indians as a whole. Over that same stretch since June 7th, the Indians are 12-4 and have scored a total of 92 runs, or just under 7 runs per game. They also have the best overall record for the month of June in all of baseball and may soon be knocking on the door of the first place Minnesota Twins.
Sure, I know what you’re thinking:
“Hey Brian, the rest of the offense has started to produce over the past few weeks. There’s no reason to assume this is all a result of Jason Kipnis.”
That’s true. There is no reason to assume Jason Kipnis’ sudden renaissance as a hitter is solely responsible for the Indians recent offensive surge. However, as the undisputed veteran leader of the team, the example he puts forth has an impact.
Grinding out at bats. Doing the work in the cages. Studying the film. Finding the positive outcomes despite negative results. Ultimately holding others accountable for what they are or aren’t doing. A lot has been made about how Jose Ramirez is alone on an island most days trying to figure himself out. The exact opposite was true of Kipnis during his struggles and it feels like his results and example have rubbed off on everyone else.
If the Indians have any hope of going anywhere this season, there is no question they will need Jason Kipnis to keep performing at a high level. Not necessarily this well, but he cannot slip back into his April/May form. His presence in the middle third of the order has never been as valuable as it is this season following the mass exodus of production that occurred.
On a personal level, I’m happy for Jason Kipnis. He is one of the hardest working and most accommodating professional athletes we have ever had in the city of Cleveland. He understands us on a level that not many others have. Maybe it’s because he grew up not so far away in Chicago. Maybe it’s just who he is as a person. I don’t know. But I’m thrilled that it’s starting to look like our final memories of him are going to be fun rather than frustrating.
We are all Kipnises.