Throughout the years, there hasn't been a more polarizing player for the Texas Rangers than second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Whether it be his occasional boneheaded defensive play or his consistent pop-ups early in at-bats or his propensity in 2012 to get picked off on the bases, Kinsler has given Rangers fans a few reasons to grow tired of him.
But as he's showing this season, he's still a very big key to the Rangers' offense and just might be the team's most valuable player.
Over his first 40 games this season, 39 of which were starts, prior to going on the disabled list in mid-May with a strained intercostal muscle, Kinsler was hitting .302 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs and was sporting a .369 on-base percentage, better than his career-worst year in 2012, showing that he was indeed capable of being a leadoff hitter.
Since returning from the DL on June 15, Kinsler has played in nine games and is hitting .314 with a .390 on-base and seven RBIs. He has a seven-game hitting streak right now after going hitless in his first two games back. He's without an extra-base hit since returning but has come up with several clutch hits, including a game-winner to clinch the four-game series with Oakland and another big RBI single in St. Louis.
While he was gone, the Rangers were 11-14 without Kinsler and fell out of first place in the AL West. With him, they're back in first place and have won six out of their last seven games. The Rangers, as a team, have batted 43 points higher and scored 14 more runs in the nine games since Kinsler's return than in the final nine games without him.
"He's the straw that stirs the drink," manager Ron Washington told the Star-Telegram, channeling his inner-Reggie Jackson. "I've never doubted that."
So if you're still questioning whether Kinsler needs to be in the leadoff spot, your question should be answered.