KIPNIS LOVE

With a 2-0 victory over the Nationals, the Indians have now won four of their last five, and have climbed back to .500.  A huge part of their success is directly related to the kid they call Jesus (fine, that’s what I call him), Jason Kipnis. In those five games, Kipnis has gone 9-17, with 4 R, 4 RBI, and 2 SB. Just in today’s game, Kipnis was 1-1 with a RBI, 2 BB, SB, sacrifice fly and run scored. Those stats do not begin to sum up the havoc Kipnis is wreaking on opponents.

In the middle of a pitcher’s duel this afternoon, Kipnis drew a walk off Stephen Strasberg, who had yet to allow a hit. After timing his jump beautifully, Kipnis had second base stolen like a 14 year-old at the drive-in movie theater. Did Jhonathan Solano decide to throw the ball to second base anyway? Yes he did. Ian Desmond, who ostensibly had still not reacted to Kipnis’ killer-jump, was nowhere near the bag, and the ball bounced into centerfield. Did Jason Kipnis erect himself and move up to third base? Yes he did. Carlos Santana followed that act up by drilling a low fastball up the middle to plate Kipnis. 1-0, Indians. And with Corey Kluber and his repeated escaping from situations like bases-loaded-nobody-out, making even Houdini blush, that was the only run the Indians would need. Did that stop the Kip Show from lifting a picture-perfect sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the 8th, for a little Vinnie Pestano insurance? You already know.

Let’s flash back to April. Kipnis was one of three Indians’ players who had established himself as an everyday guy at his given position. You could argue that Carlos Santana had won catching duties, but as we’ve seen, he has DH’d a lot and played some first base.  Yes, Nick Swisher was going to play every day, but in right field or at first base? Asdrubal Cabrera would play short, Michael Bourn would play center, and Jason Michael Kipnis was going to be playing second base. He had performed well in 2012 — especially if you forget about the horrid month of August, when the Indians staggered to a 5-24 record. His line from a year ago: .257/.335/14/76 with 31 steals. There was no reason to think he couldn’t match that production, or even outdo it.

So when the month of April ended and Kipnis was hitting .200 with exactly four extra base hits, eyebrows were raised, and fantasy owners’ heads were exploding. Was this too much, too soon? A well thought-out blog entry had me feeling like Kipnis would be lucky to match his 2012 production — once you put yourself in a hole as deep as he was in, it’s tough to get out of.

But Kipnis was living up to all of the baseball cliches pertaining to being in a slump: he was trying to do too much, pressing, not letting the game come to him. When Kipnis is at his best, he is seeing a lot of pitches. In fact, he sees the seventh-most pitches, on average, in the American League. When he sees a lot of pitches, he more easily gets on base. When he gets on base, he swipes bags — he currently has 15, good enough for fourth in the American League. When he swipes bags, he scores runs. When he scores a run, the Indians are 19-7. When he does not score a run, the Indians are 15-27.

Jason Kipnis is going to be just fine. The Indians, however, could be a different story.