Kinsler down from top spot for first time in 2016

Kinsler down from top spot for first time in 2016

DETROIT -- The view from the top of the Tigers' batting order has been a scenic one this season for Ian Kinsler, who entered Monday ranked fifth in the American League in runs scored. The last few weeks, however, the numbers haven't been all that pretty.

So on Monday, for the first time this season, manager Brad Ausmus decided to change the view. When Kinsler batted second behind Cameron Maybin vs. the White Sox, it marked the second baseman's first start anywhere but leading off since the last game of the 2015 season, when he hit second behind Anthony Gose.

"Just change his luck, maybe," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's been barreling the ball up, getting under it a little sometimes, sometimes hitting it right at people. So we'll see if it helps. There's no mathematical formula behind it."

Nobody in baseball has more games (124) or at-bats (514) in the leadoff spot this season, and it's not close. Arizona's Jean Segura entered Monday with 496 at-bats atop the D-backs' order. The next-closest total to Kinsler in the AL was Boston's Mookie Betts at 473.

The recent stretch for Kinsler, however, saw him walking back to the dugout with increasing frequency. He entered Monday batting 3-for-45 with seven strikeouts over his last 12 games. He's batting .229 (50-for-218) since June 25, with 36 runs scored, a .294 on-base percentage and a .253 batting average on balls put in play.

The BABIP suggests the hits should begin to fall again for Kinsler down the stretch, wherever he's hitting.

Kinsler's .265 average and .330 on-base percentage leading off an inning nearly match his season totals. As the first batter of a game, though, he's a .226 (26-for-115) hitter with a .276 OBP, though with almost as many home runs (six) as walks (seven).

"It's just about trying to give Kins a breather," said Maybin, whose .328 batting average entering Monday included a .398 on-base percentage in 69 games. "I mean, the guy's been grinding."

Hitting second in the order, directly in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, isn't exactly a major demotion. If anything, the way the Tigers' lineup is constructed, it can act as a spark. Yet despite Maybin's resurgence, Detroit's No. 2 hitters entered Monday batting .251 with a .316 on-base percentage on the season, ranking 25th and 22nd respectively among Major League teams.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.