Gage: Home runs will come for Kinsler, they always have
DETROIT -- He'll hit one soon. I know he will.
He's bound to.
Because he always has.
Through the first 50 games of the Tigers' season, Ian Kinsler has not hit a home run. Among major-league hitters, only Dee Gordon of the Miami Marlins has more at-bats (198-191) without one.
As significant solace, Gordon is leading the majors with a .374 batting average.
Gordon is not a home-run hitter, though. He has only four in his career. Last year he hit two.
Kinsler, meanwhile, once hit 32 for the Texas Rangers (and more than 30 twice in three years) but he isn't known as a home-run hitter, either.
His career has not been built on a foundation of home runs, that is.
But he's never been a slap hitter not expected to hit them -- and he's not a slap hitter now, either. He's just not found the range -- and that, indeed, is very strange.
Last year by this time, Kinsler had hit four. And that was down from previous years.
What you have to remember, of course, is that when Kinsler was traded to the Tigers, his home park changed drastically.
And so did he as a hitter.
He was accustomed to how The Ballpark in Arlington felt -- and how close to the plate the seats seemed to be.
In 2009, when he broke the 30-barrier for the first time, Kinsler hit 20 of them at home.
And he often hit a bunch of them early in the year. In 2007, his second season in the majors, Kinsler hit nine home runs in April alone. In fact, March/April is still the period in which -- with 35 -- he's hit the most home runs.
But Kinsler has always been streaky with his power. He went from hitting nine home runs in April of 2007 to just one in May.
Then again, May has rarely been one of his power months. In the last six years, he's hit only eight home runs in May.
But Kinsler has often offset the quirky void by getting on base in other ways. Last May, for instance -- his first as a Tiger -- he hit 13 doubles, the highest monthly total of his career.
Here's the thing about Kinsler, though, an intriguing, resourceful hitter who tries to get it done in other ways if the conventional method isn't working.
Last May he hit .331 for the Tigers with 15 extra-base hits. This May, because of the quicksand slump that has dragged him down recently, he's hit .263 with seven extra-base hits.
But his on-base percentage, at .357, is the same this May as it was last because he's walked 15 times.
Reflective of what's taking place behind him, though -- or not taking place as the case may be -- Kinsler has scored only 11 runs this month, compared to 22 last May.
In fact, 11 runs would be the lowest run-total of his career for any month in which he's had at least 100 at-bats.
That's the statistic which should alarm the Tigers the most -- because Kinsler is a run scorer more than a home run hitter, and if he's not scoring, something is definitely amiss with the offense.
But lately, it's not taken an isolated stat for the Tigers to know they've been struggling at the plate.
As for Kinsler's home runs, though, they'll come. He's not Dee Gordon, a fine player in his own right. But Gordon isn't a hitter for whom the fences have ever been an easy reach.
As they have been for Kinsler.
By the end of May in 2009 for the Rangers, for instance, Kinsler had hit 13 home runs .
But he's not that kind of hitter, with that kind of uppercut swing anymore. He might have changed before he became a Tiger, but he's certainly changed since.
The home runs will come.
Not as many as he used to hit, but they'll come.
They always have.