Phillies Opposition Roadblock: Ian Kinsler

Apr 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) prepares to play against tne Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Tigers win 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) prepares to play against tne Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Tigers win 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies travel to Detroit for a three game series with the host Tigers beginning tonight at Comerica Park.

The Phillies are about to embark on a difficult stretch of games in which we will learn a lot about who they are.  The journey begins in Detroit, Michigan at Comerica Park against what seems to be the most intimidating offense the Phillies have faced to this point.

Vincent Velasquez, Jeremy Hellickson, and Aaron Nola have a tall task in front of them with the names lined up to face them in the Tigers lineup over these next few days in the Motor City.

The Tigers boast a lineup consisting of four players hitting for a batting average over the .300 mark, and five guys with an OPS higher than the .800 mark.

Those numbers do not include Justin Upton, who was one of the top prizes of the previous offseason.  Upton is the type of player who is always poised to breakout, and I still hold my breath with every pitch delivered to him.

I looked over the Detroit lineup on Sunday afternoon and saw the following posted:

I mean, where will the Phillies’ pitchers get a chance to breathe?  Arguably when they pass Nick Castellanos, it becomes easier, but I have already mentioned the reputation Upton carries.

There is some Major League experience built into the bottom of the Tigers batting order as well., so no rest there. Cameron Maybin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jose Iglesias (who had the day off) all have experienced big league success.

The Tigers have made choosing an “Opposition Roadblock” for this series extremely difficult.  Many of you are probably shaking your heads, thinking I am out of my mind.  I am sure you are thinking, “You moron, you have Miggy Cabrera sitting in front of you.  It can’t be any easier than that.”

Well, he is actually third in average, second in OPS, and tied for second in home runs with Detroit, and I feel as though we already know how much the 14-year veteran means to this team.

Because of that, I went with a different choice.  Heck, this whole season has been completely off the wall, so why not an off-the-wall pick to start arguably the most difficult stretch of games this Phillies team will face all season.

I have long enjoyed watching Ian Kinsler play.  He is a “dirt ball”-type of player.  The guy rarely has a clean jersey and consistently fills the box score.

This season Kinsler has experienced early (and familiar) success.  He is the spark plug at the top of this loaded Tigers lineup.

Kinsler has scored 40 runs thus far, nearly doubling J.D. Martinez‘ 25 runs scored for the team lead.  He is one of the four players hitting over .300, and is just under an OPS of .900 as of Sunday evening.

More surprisingly, Kinsler leads the Tigers with 10 home runs at this juncture of the season, which is just one shy of his entire 2015 total.

The 33-year old was drafted in 2003 as a shortstop in the 17th round.  Interestingly enough, Kinsler played at three different colleges: Central Arizona College, Arizona State, and Missouri.  He was drafted three times, the third being by the Texas Rangers in 2003.

Kinsler made his MLB debut in 2006, and only a year later joined the 20/20 club when he launched 20 home runs and swiped 22 bags.  After that, he would outdo himself with two 30/30 seasons in both 2009 and 2011.

The four-time All Star began to see a decline in numbers while with Texas before he was shipped off to Detroit in a November 2013 trade.

That blockbuster one-for-one deal exchanged power hitter Prince Fielder and Kinsler. Since the trade, Kinsler has experienced a career resurgence.

I am convinced the Phillies will look to shift on Kinsler as a result of his heavy ground ball rates to the left side of the infield.  The problem with Kinsler is his ability, over the course of the last three seasons, to have success against both righties (.278/.325/.415) and lefties (.296/.345/.438).

The Phillies will more than likely use right-handed pitching as often as possible to counteract Kinsler and the rest of the righties at the top of the Tiger order, but there is no real late-game matchup advantage against the Tiger leadoff hitter.

The Phillies best bet is to go after him using a collection of pitches.  Kinsler loves the ball on the outer half of the plate.  He has major difficulties succeeding on pitches that bust the inner half.

The young Phillies pitching staff will have to keep the ball in on his hands if they want to cut him down this week. This Tigers lineup is a big test, and taking Kinsler out of the picture would go a long ways towards slowing them down.

Next: Down on the Pharm: Appel Pulled Early