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Don Kelly is Mr. Versatility

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Just like last year, we'll be grading all the Tigers who contributed significant playing time over the course of the season, starting with the position players, then doing the rotation members, and finally finishing up with the bullpen and writing profiles for players without enough playing time to earn a grade. Each list will run in alphabetical order. These reviews will occasionally dip into sabermetrics so we can get a better idea why things happened, but I'll try to explain as we go through things.

Don Kelly

Just the saying the name Don Kelly threatens to drive some folks -- and a Tigers blogger -- over the edge.

Why? It might have to do with the fact Kelly bats .245 and has an on-base percentage beneath .300, yet is somehow the go-to player for manager Jim Leyland.

And I'm sure Don Kelly is a nice guy. You want to root for him. It was really quite fun when he rewarded Leyland's trust during the postseason and became a real hero.

It's just all those other times when Kelly does exactly what you expect of him that are the problem.

If there's one thing you can say about him, at least he can play defense pretty much wherever you need him to. Some of those positions he fields quite well. Other of them, well, others he can find a glove for. On top of it, he even pitched in relief with some success making an otherwise awful game kind of fun.

So in the end, I like Kelly. I just can't justify giving him any grade higher than

C-

At the plate:

Kelly didn't hit well. He didn't get on base. His career BABIP is pretty awful on a yearly basis, making you think Kelly is woefully unlucky or the BABIP and xBABIP (.302 this year) thing just isn't going work well with him.

But can we find any positives? Of course. Kelly actually cut his strikeout rate from 16.7% to 11.4% this year. His walk rate improved from 3.2% to 5.0%. He also got his line drive rate up to 22%.

Of course, those are always reasons to be a bit afraid for 2012, because he didn't have a lot to show for it and you have to worry about some of those numbers stepping toward his career norms.

In the field:

Kelly played third base more this year than any year in the past. In fact, it was the position he spent the most time at this season. Of course, it's hard to put too much weight on any of his advanced defensive numbers because the sample size just isn't large enough any any single position.

Still, if you want to credit him for being quite a bit above average in 2011, you have to acknowledge he took a step backward at several positions this year so his overall defensive numbers are down.

Just looking at the Fan Fielding voting, Kelly was seen as being pretty average across the board, with most numbers in the 50-55 range for an aggregate of 51. That is down from the 57 last year.

As far as my eye test goes, I don't believe that Kelly really looked all that different this year. But i guess if the fans and advanced metrics both see a step back, there's probably reason to believe one occurred.

In 2012:

It's hard to see too much changing in 2012. Kelly will continue to not hit that well. He will continue to field a bit above average. If Detroit can't find any good third basemen to acquire from elsewhere, he'll probably split time with Brandon Inge. At least he batted a .250 with a .698 OPS against right-handers if he does end up in a platoon situation. Not great, but he does have a fair amount of power batting against righties.