Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor had an electrifying rookie campaign, igniting a stagnant Tribe offense the second half of the season. Are second baseman Jason Kipnis and Lindor the best middle infield in all of baseball?
Along with the Cleveland Indians starting rotation, the middle infield is a position group manager Terry Francona won’t be losing any sleep over. Francisco Lindor, 22, is entering his sophomore season and Jason Kipnis, 28, is coming off of an All-Star 2015 campaign. The pair is making a case for the best middle infield duo in all of baseball.
More from Cleveland Guardians
- Emmanuel Clase is not struggling for the Cleveland Guardians in 2023
- 3 teams the Cleveland Guardians should trade Shane Bieber to
- Zach Plesac’s tenure with the Cleveland Guardians will not be fondly remembered
- Terry Francona continues to pad his historic resume during Cleveland Guardians tenure
- Don’t Miss One of Ohio’s Biggest Sportsbook Promos (Unlock $1,250 Bonus at Caesars!)
Kipnis hit .303 with nine home runs and 52 RBIs last season. His 171 hits were fourth in the American League amongst second basemen and his .372 on base percentage was tops in the position group. He matched a previous career high with 86 runs scored from the leadoff spot, good enough to be tied for third among AL second basemen with the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve.
Lindor provided an immediate spark for the Tribe after being called up in June. In 99 games he hit .313 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs. This includes hitting .345 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs after the All-Star break. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind the Astros’ Carlos Correa.
So, where do Lindor and Kipnis stack up against the rest of the league? It could be inferred from the stats listed above, but the Astros duo of Correa, 21, and Altuve, 25, is the biggest competition for the unofficial title of best middle infield in baseball. Correa hit .279 with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs, providing more pop offensively but lacking Lindor’s defensive prowess. Altuve had 200 hits, second among all MLB second basemen, to go along with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs.
The Boston Red Sox Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts and the San Francisco Giants Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are in the conversation, but this is really a two horse race between the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. Altuve’s numbers to the naked eye may seem better, but digging deeper into Sabermetrics paints a different picture.
More from Factory of Sadness
- Bet $1 on ANYTHING to Unlock $200 Guaranteed with Crazy Bet365 Ohio Promo!
- 3 reasons why the Cleveland Cavaliers have a good shot to win the East next year
- It might be too soon to say it but it looks like the Cleveland Guardians are back
- Are the Cleveland Browns a Top 10 roster heading into the 2023 season?
- Eastern Conference Solidarity: Back the Heat with $5 Bet, Win $200 Bonus INSTANTLY with DraftKings Promo
Runs scored per 27 outs estimates how many runs a team would score with a lineup consisting of just the player being looked at. Kipnis’ RC/27 in 2015 was 6.26, Altuve’s was 5.74. What this shows is how much Altuve benefited from a superior lineup backing him up. Kipnis was the better overall leadoff hitter in 2015. Altuve led all second basemen in fielding percentage and has slightly better range, but nothing that separates him too much from Kipnis.
The real wild card in this discussion is Lindor and Correa’s ability to back up their stellar rookie campaigns. Despite Correa taking Rookie of the Year honors, Lindor, statistically, actually had the better year. Correa had a slightly better offensive season with a 6.12 RC/27, compared to Lindor’s 5.83. The real separation between the two is shown through their defense. Lindor’s total wins above replacement was 4.6, Correa came in at 4.1. The difference? Defensive WAR, Lindor was significantly better defensively with a 1.7 mark in contrast to Correa’s 0.6. Bottomline, both had incredible rookie seasons and the 2016 season should bring plenty of excitement watching them mature in the league.
The Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians have plenty to be optimistic about with their young middle infielders. The edge, ever so slightly, goes to the Tribe’s Kipnis and Lindor. The 2016 will paint a clearer picture based on the performances of Lindor and Correa.
Either way, both middle infield duos will be exciting to watch during the 2016 season.