Friday, May 13, 2011

Inge's Bat Toxic for Tigers; How Much Longer Can This Go On?

Leo Durocher would love Brandon Inge.

Leo the Lip would have seamlessly inserted Inge onto the 1946 New York Giants roster, had him play third base instead of the real starter, Billy Rigney, and Brandon would have been perfectly suited for that role, on that team.

For it was about the ‘46 Giants that Durocher uttered his famous, though widely misinterpreted line, “Nice guys finish last.”

Actually, Leo—managing the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time—told Red Barber that July day in 1946 of the Giants, “They’re a bunch of nice guys. But they’ll finish last. Nice guys; finish last.”

The inference was that the Giants were laden with nice gentlemen, like Mel Ott, but all that would get them would be a last place finish, which the Giants accomplished that year.

Brandon Inge is a nice guy who’s batting last, and there’s debate whether he should even be doing that.

Inge, the kewpie doll third baseman who so many of the female Tigers fans would love to just squeeze to death, delivered a game-winning triple in the ninth inning in Minnesota the other day. It was his first hit of any significance this season, and I couldn’t even tell you when the last one was prior to it.

I’ve been a Brandon Inge supporter, no question. It was without the benefit of controlled substances that I once wrote that a statue might be erected of him at Comerica Park someday, for Inge, I wrote, would forever be a Tiger and he lives here all year long and he kind of epitomizes the town in which he plays.

Sadly, you don’t write blogs with invisible ink.

Today I look at Inge and I see a guy who’s still above average defensively, but whose bat is positively toxic. Tigers rallies go to Inge’s bat to die.

There isn’t really anything to like about Inge’s offensive game. If this was basketball, he’d be Ben Wallace.

Inge brings nothing to the table with the bat. He doesn’t drive in runs from third base with less than two outs—something that the kid catcher, Alex Avila, has become a master at.

Inge doesn’t move the runner from second to third by guiding the ball to the right side. He doesn’t give you quality, lengthy at-bats. He has no power anymore, perhaps a result of the troubles he’s had with his knees. He strikes out too much. If he’s not doing that, he’s grounding into a double play or popping the ball into shallow left field.

He’s a .200 hitter with no home run threat any longer, which was something you could expect to get occasionally. No more. Inge has one home run this year, on pace to hit less than five.

So why is he still in the lineup, albeit batting ninth?

Well, there’s the defense, which is still pretty good. But is it good enough to cancel out the pathetic bat?

This is mid-May, which is not the best time to seek help from outside the organization—at least not without overpaying.

So if there’s help, it has to come from within.

Danny Worth, perhaps, from Toledo?

This is all moot, though. The Tigers aren’t going to do anything with Inge; they certainly won’t cut him. He’s a Tiger, and manager Jim Leyland loves him and you still see more Inge jerseys in the stands at CoPa than any other.

They might not do anything with Inge now, but if this limp noodle act at the plate continues for another month or so, a hard decision may have to be made. Leyland is trying to hide Inge at no. 9 in the order, and right now it’s working because the rest of the team’s bats are perking up.

I’ve written that with Inge, he is what he is. He’ s been a Tiger for over 10 years now and no one has been able to improve his offense all that much. He is, today, what he was back in the early-2000s: an undisciplined hacker who can occasionally grab a hold of one and drive it far.

But actually this season he’s even worse, because he has no power. It’s Gerald Laird and Adam Everett, redux.

Perhaps Inge isn’t as popular of a Tiger as Curtis Granderson was. But he’s still popular, though polarizing. It’s never easy to lop those types off your roster. But sooner or later, Inge has to produce. One would think, anyway.


Blogger xman said...

Greg...your preaching to the choir to those of us who have pointed out these shortcomings for a decade. He's always been awful at the plate, save a few brief "hot" runs that have kept his supporters from abandoning ship sooner. Truth is, his defense has not even been superior since 2006 as he's metrics are pretty pedestrian over the past three years. He makes a highlight play, but whiffs on too many of the routine. I would argue, that he'd have long been home selling insurance had he played for any other franchise than the Tigers of early last decade. Your summary point, that there's "no way" he gets the ziggy is the saddest part of the problem. Guys with much greater track record have been sent packing for less.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Thanks, xman!

Well, sooner or later something has to be done. You can't have a 3B who produces next to nothing offensively. The Twins got away with it a little bit with Nick Punto, but they had a lot of boppers in their lineup (when healthy).

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Thanks for reading!

2:21 PM  

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