Without much else to think about when it comes to the Tigers, heading toward Thanksgiving, I actually came up with something.
Does Brandon Inge help or hurt the cause?
Talk amongst yourselves.
It’s a simple question to pose, but not as easy to answer.
Does Brandon Inge, with his premium leather at third base, save more runs than he fails to produce in the batter’s box?
It’s a relevant question, and has been for several years now, even as Inge has been rotating positions like tires on a car.
It seems as though Inge is back at third base, his favorite position. It would take too long to explain how he got there, but here’s the short version: Carlos Guillen appears to be the Tigers’ left fielder, and Dusty Ryan or a player TBD will be the everyday catcher. That leaves 3B for Inge.
But here’s the rub: third base is typically a position where you get some offense. Stellar glove work is great, but you gotta see some numbers with the bat, too.
Inge has become, frankly, a good field, no hit kind of player. The Eddie Brinkman of today’s Tigers.
Inge’s defense is nice, but his bat has been mostly naughty
But Steady Eddie played shortstop in an era when you didn’t require offense from that position. The game was full of Mark Belangers and Dal Maxvills and Brinkmans, until the latter portion of the 1970s and early-1980s, when players like Robin Yount, Cal Ripken Jr., and Alan Trammell began contributing offensively. Then it became chic to have a SS who could hit, too.
Inge isn’t getting any better, really, with the bat. His batting averages are consistently low, and what pop he has is more than neutralized by his enormous propensity to strike out. He’s a true no. 9 hitter. Which is fine — someone has to hit ninth — but is it fine for your everyday third baseman?
The easy answer is to say that Inge is so good defensively, robs so many others of base hits, that you can afford to have him drag down the bottom of your batting order.
The other easy answer is to pose another question: What to do with Brandon Inge, then, if he’s not to play third base everyday?
Good question. So I guess you’re stuck with him.
Now, I know that the Tigers have no choice but to play Inge at third base. And I know that he certainly robs others of base hits. He really is that good with the glove. But I bring it up because if Inge is to continue to do this, play 3B for the Tigers, then he must improve with the stick. His career depends on it. Because sooner or later, the Tigers or other teams are going to err on the side of offense and determine that they can downgrade slightly defensively in favor of a more potent bat at 3B.
Inge, believe it or not, is going to be 32 next May. His career BA is below .240. He strikes out about once for every four at-bats. It’s tempting to say that this is as good as it gets for him. How many players suddenly start to hit at age 32?
But it’s possible to show improvement. The easiest thing to do would be cut down on strikeouts. That can be done with mechanics, like shortening the swing, choking up slightly, etc. Just putting the ball into play more frequently would be improvement for Inge. He’s not a home run hitter, per se, so it’s not like you’d be robbing him of that by working with him on reducing the Ks.
Look at me, talking like a hitting coach!
But in all seriousness, Brandon Inge needs to start picking it up offensively. He’s been able to forge a MLB career without much of a bat thus far, but that train may come to a screeching halt one day — in Detroit or elsewhere.