Friday, February 11, 2011

After 10 Years, Inge No Better at the Plate Than When He Started

Brandon Inge has been in the big leagues for 10 years, so isn't it time that someone teach him how to hit?

I'm not being facetious, not going for laughs here.

Inge, the Tigers third baseman, enters his 11th MLB season with a lifetime batting average of .237, and with a strikeout frequency of about one in every four at-bats.

I find it odd that no batting coach in a decade has been able to break Inge's swing down and find something about it that needs correcting.

If it can't be done, then why have batting coaches at all?

I'm just a bottom-feeding blogger, but even I can tell you that Inge's swing gets too long at times, and he gets too tempted by the home run. They both add up to mighty swings at the air.

The trouble with Inge is that he has just enough pop in his bat, and has homered just enough, to make everyone think that he's a legitimate longball threat. Even Inge himself believes that, which is also part of his problem.

It didn't help matters when Inge was propped up as a contestant in the All-Star break's Home Run Derby in 2009. He was shutout, and that was fitting.

The Tigers need better than .237 from Inge if they truly want to boast of a lineup that can sting you, 1-thru-9.

Inge has really only had two seasons where home runs were central to his arsenal: 2006, when he slugged 27, and 2009, when he also hit 27.

Other than that, it's been a lot of totals in the lower-to-mid teens.

Inge batted at a .287 clip in 2004, and hasn't come close to that rate since.

How many times have we seen him spin himself halfway into the ground like a corkscrew, flailing at strike three?

What about those hitting principles that other guys have managed to integrate into their game, like shortening the swing and going to the opposite field and up the middle?

The simple fact is that Brandon Inge, from the moment he made his big league debut on April 3, 2001, has not improved one iota with the bat. In fact, he may have regressed slightly.

He broke into the majors hitting for a low average and striking out a lot, and 10 years later, he's hitting for a low average and striking out a lot.

Were it not for a glove that can be as good as any third sacker's in the sport, Inge may not even be in the big leagues, and certainly not as a starter.

This isn't to dump on the guy. In fact, it was me who trumpeted Inge for a statue in Comerica Park bearing his likeness. This was when I thought he might be synonymous with the franchise, and when I thought the Tigers would have won something by now.

This is more of a tough love piece. I'm an Inge guy. I marvel at what he can do with the glove. I respect his dedication to the metro Detroit area. I love his willingness to play through pain. I believe he's a wonderful teammate. He is, in many ways, the face of the franchise because of the aforementioned things.

I just am dumbfounded that no one within the Tigers organization has been able to do a thing with Inge's swing, and added 20-30 points to his BA.

I'd take an Inge with a .270 BA and 15 homers over a version with a .230 BA and 25 homers, but that's just me.

Brandon Inge has been, for many years now, one of the most polarizing athletes I've ever seen in Detroit, especially for someone who's not even really considered a big star.

The vitriol directed his way by fans has been at times disturbing. But then there are those who simply adore him. Many of the female fans want to hug and squeeze him.

It's funny, in a way, because Inge has never been shoved out there by the Tigers organization as one of the team's big stars. The Tigers have never purported him to be anything other than what he is, which is a good field, mostly no hit third baseman.

Yet Inge gets it from the fans as if he's been asked to carry the team on his back and has failed miserably.

All I ask for is to see, in year 11, some degree of hitting improvement. It would sure help the Tigers' cause, because too many times in recent years rallies have gone to Inge's bat to die.

Can't somebody work with him and get his batting average north of .250, and with fewer strikeouts?

Inge would make a terrific case study, if someone were inclined to take him on.


Blogger John Parent said...

You know, Inge last year actually had his best season at the plate since 2006. He hit 10 points higher than his career average, he also bested his career OBP and SLG numbers, plus he cut his strikeouts down from 170 in 2009 to 134 in 2010 (in 48 fewer at bats, but still). He did all of this coming off an offseason that saw him undergo surgery on BOTH knees. If you were looking for north of .250, I guess he came up a little short, but overall Inge really wasn't that bad last year and he was better than his career numbers. He's never going to be Ted Williams, but he seems to have done last season what you're clamoring for him to someday do.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Thanks for the comment, John! I hear you, but I'm looking for a little more than the modest "improvement" you're speaking of!

BTW, I saw where you took me to task a little over my feelings re: Armando Galarraga. Great minds can agree to disagree, right? :-)


3:24 PM  
Blogger John Parent said...

absolutely Greg, no hard feelings at all I hope. Inge is not real threat at the plate and I'm not suggesting he is (or ever will be), I just figured I'd throw in my two cents for the sake of a good debate is all.

3:42 PM  
Blogger John Parent said...

Plus at his age, he's sort of past the point where we can expect any significant improvement from him. What we have is probably what we're going to get.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Sadly, you're probably right about "what you see is what you get," but I don't think you're ever too old to learn something in baseball.

I was also thinking out loud why no one has been able to help him in 10 years.

4:05 PM  
Blogger dennis said...

Love, love, lobe BI, but I have frequently thought he'd benefit by choking up on the bat and shortening the swing a la Polanco or Rusty Staub. He's so strong, he might hit MORE taters if he made solid contact more. Even Polly hit > 20 in '09.

7:41 PM  

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