Goldschmidt, Kipnis deserving of high praise

Yankees first baseman

Lyle Overbay was a mentor to Paul Goldschmidt during their time

together in Arizona, and Overbay still marvels at the advanced approach

that Goldschmidt displayed even as a rookie in

2011.

Specifically, Overbay recalls a sequence from

Aug. 25, 2011, when Goldschmidt hit a two-run homer off Nationals

reliever Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning of a game the D-backs won

8-1.

Overbay said he told Goldschmidt, “You will get a

good pitch, a fastball or a changeup. It’s hard to see the difference

(in arm speed). You almost have to sit on one, or else you’ll get caught

in between and foul pitches off.”

So, what

happened?

“He took two fastballs, and at least one

was right down the middle,” Overbay said. “I had a feeling he was

sitting on a change. But I kind of saw Gibby (manager Kirk Gibson) out

of the corner of my eye. I could see him getting a little mad at him

taking those fastballs.

“I thought, ‘I hope he gets a

changeup and hits it really far. If he doesn’t, he’ll be called into

the office.’ Well, he hit a home run. He sat on it. He didn’t panic. The

confidence he has in his game plan is pretty

good.”

Unsung

Kipnis

Take a guess: Which

player has the highest OPS of any second baseman in the American

League?

Not Robinson Cano. Not Dustin Pedroia. Not

Howie Kendrick or Ian Kinsler.

Nope, the leader is

Jason Kipnis of the Indians — the surprising Indians, who on Sunday tied

the Tigers for first place in the AL

Central.

Kipnis, 26, the former Arizona State star,

stands almost no chance of overtaking Cano in the All-Star fan

balloting. He might not make the team at all, considering Pedroia’s

all-around brilliance and Kendrick’s scorching performance in

June.

Still, consider the OPS standings at

second:

Kipnis: .917.
Cano:

.868.
Pedroia: .843.
Kendrick:

.833.

Pedroia rates as easily the best defender of

the group, according to John Dewan’s plus-minus ratings on

BillJames.com. But Kipnis also leads in stolen bases, with 19 successes

in 24 attempts.

Whether Kipnis makes the AL team or

not, he is becoming a star — not that you would have viewed him that way

in April, when he batted .200 with a .555 OPS.

“The

thing that most impressed me is how he struggled in spring training and

struggled at the start of the season, but took it in stride, stuck to

his approach and continued with the same routine,” teammate Mike Aviles

says.

“He knew what worked for him. You don’t see

that a lot with a younger player. He could have hit the panic button in a

hurry, and it could have been all downhill. But he knew he was a good

player. He knew he was going to get out of it.”

Said

Kipnis: “I’ve always had a lot of confidence in myself. You get up here,

you learn how long the season is, how ups and downs are part of the

game. It’s just going to happen.

“Especially early on

in your career, you want to stay away from thinking, ‘I don’t know if I

belong up there. This is too tough.’ ”

It’s not too

tough for Kipnis, a left-handed hitter who had a big first half last

season before slumping in the second. So far this season, he is the

game’s best hitter for average at going to the opposite

field.

Kipnis is 37 for 69 going the other way, a

.536 average. His .957 slugging percentage to the opposite field ranks

third in the majors, behind only Yasiel Puig and Chris Davis, both of

whom are at 1.086.

Is Kipnis an All-Star? Sure looks

like it.

“I got close last year,” Kipnis said. “But

you want to talk about a hard position to crack — with AL second base,

there are some guys who need to be in there every single year, and

deservedly so. Cano, Pedroia, all of them. But every player would love

to be in the All-Star Game. It’s a dream of everyone’s. Hopefully, it

comes true this year. If not, we try again next

year.”

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