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Projecting good things for Jason Kipnis and the Indians

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The fall was harsh - a seeming path to many all-star nods and a new contract leading into a disaster of a season - but that should just make the rebound that much more sweet.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries in my position-by-position comparison of the 2014 and 2015 Indians:

Catcher

First Base

Today I look at second base.

Oh the expectations at second base going into 2014. In 2013, Kipnis posted a .356 wOBA and I expected serious regression - down to the .334 projected by ZiPS, still making 2B easily a powerful offensive position for the team. Instead, I think you can make a solid argument that Jason Kipnis (or maybe his olbique) was the difference between the Indians being in the post-season and not last year. It kills me to say that - I teared up when Kipnis signed his extension because it meant my son would get to watch my favorite player in a Tribe uniform - but it's true. So if the Indians are going to bounce back, Kipnis needs to lead the charge.

A reminder: I pulled a list of every player who took the field in that role for the Indians in 2014, listed their wOBA and UZR/150, and the percentage of the team's PA they took in that position.

For the 2015 stats, you are seeing ZiPS projections for wOBA and my projection for UZR/150 based on what the player has done in the past. The 2015 playing time projections are also mine.

For wOBA, the 2014 numbers are position specific (meaning, for example, that in this post you're seeing what Santana did only when he was playing first base), while the 2015 numbers assume the player has the same wOBA regardless of where they play on the diamond. UZR/150 is always position-specific.

The Indians Total line is the pro-rated average of the guys who played (or will play) the position based on playing time; the AL average line is exactly what it sounds like - the average production for the league at the position.

Second Base

Player 14 wOBA 14 UZR 14 PT 15 wOBA 15 UZR 15 PT
Jason Kipnis 0.293 -9.7 76.5% 0.322 -5 90%
0.337 -1.2 17.0% 0.278 0 5%
0.099 16.3 3.9% 0.29 15 5%
0.466 -9.2 1.2%
0.183 -85.2 1.0%
0 -49.5 0.4%
Indians Total 0.293 -8.2 0.318 -3.8
AL Average 0.308 -0.8

It's interesting to note that even with five other players taking up nearly a quarter of the playing time at 2B, the overall line basically matches Kipnis. Aviles and Ramirez pulled up the defensive rating a bit, but the wOBA stayed steady.

Also interesting, but of far more value, notice that ZiPS doesn't really believe 2014 Kipnis was "real." ZiPS actually does not know that Kipnis had an oblique injury, notorious for lingering and sapping bat speed. It does know he missed some time and played poorly. And it expects a solid return to form. .322 is not the .356 from 2013 or even the expected .334 from 2014, but it is still a very good wOBA.

What would that .322 wOBA mean? When the Indians signed Kipnis to an extension, they imagined (or at least I assume they imagined) they were getting an above average 2B for years to come. A guy who was excellent with the bat and good enough with the glove. Last year, eight MLB 2B posted a wOBA higher than .322. So if Kipnis matches his projection, he's back to being a top 10 bat at his position.

Not only that, but as noted above, ZiPS doesn't know to account for Kipnis being (hopefully) healthy. As a fantasy player, when I see a guy who loses a season to injury, I tend to assume they can bounce back to what ZiPS, Steamer or other systems projected for that season, rather than focusing on their current projection. And a .334 wOBA would have been 5th among MLB 2B last year.

I even projected a return to defensive form for Kipnis. Even if he doesn't, improved defense at the positions on either side of him should make his job easier.

Basically, if ZiPS is right, we should expect second to be a strength for the Indians once again. And for my money, ZiPS is likely underrating Kipnis.

What do you think? Will Jose Ramirez play more 2B than that? Was Kipnis just playing over his head in 2013? Maybe you think Kipnis will take over RF (he was an OF before moving to 2B), allowing Ramirez, the superior defender to take over the position?