Inge’s Offense

Brandon Inge’s offensive contributions the last few years have supplied me a ton of material. Iin the early years he was very, very bad. But then after a demotion to Toledo in 2003 he came back as a different hitter. He sustained that for 2 years into mid 2005 and had me declaring that he had transformed into an offensive threat. But then he swooned late last year, and this season he is once again a different hitter, an all or nothing masher.

Let’s start by looking at the various stages of Inge’s career, picked somewhat arbitrarily and summarized using the Day by Day Database:

pre 7/1/2003	148	677	.183	.242	.292	.534	61.5	.109	.241
7/1/03-7/1/05	232	869	.284	.350	.446	.796	36.2	.162	.489
> 7/1/05	163	598	.227	.281	.420	.701	23.9	.193	.313

While there was a definite shift in Inge’s career with his 2003 demotion, another change seems to be in progress. From his peak, he seems to have given up 50 points of batting average, and some additional OBP in exchange for 30 additional points of ISO (isolated power: Slugging-Batting average). And while not a huge number of at-bats, the totals are probably indicative of more than just luck.

Taking a closer look at the Hardball Times stats, we see even less evidence that Inge’s totals this year are some sort of random fluctuation. Inge’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has dropped dramatically this year. In 2004 and 2005 his BABIP were .322 and .315 respectively. This year the number has plummeted to .247. That drop can be attributed to a drastic drop in the number of line drives Inge is hitting.

Line drives are the type of ball in play that is most highly correlated with hits. Inge’s line drive percentage dropped from 17.9% last year to 10.8% this year. The drop in line drives has corresponded with an increase in fly balls. To Inge’s benefit, he’s been hitting the fly balls pretty well and the result is 17 home runs. However, his other offensive numbers born the brunt of the damage. In fact, his line drive percentage is lower than it has ever been in his career and is reminiscent of his pre-demotion 2003.
Inge's Batted Balls

Now Inge has been a popular subject in trade rumors. This only makes sense as people look to the 8th and 9th spots in the lineup where the weaker hitters typically land. Now supported by an impressive home run total, Inge’s OPS numbers look passable. However, Inge has gotten away from the type of hitting where he found the most success – driving the ball up the middle.

Last year when pressed into the lead-off spot Inge showed a knack for getting on base. He may have been playing a little over his head, but he was managing to work the count. Now as a full time third baseman, it seems as if Inge is trying to live up to the offensive expectations of a 3rd sacker with lots of power. Whereas the former increased his offensive value, the current metamorphosis seems to be sapping it.

Inge’s offense is certainly acceptable from a number 9 hitter, and combined with his outstanding defense there isn’t necessarily an easy upgrade available. However, I’d prefer to see Inge get back to the approach he had last year with gap power and a much better on base percentage. Even with his improvement in home runs, the dip in batting average leaves Inge with the same slugging percentage as last year while making more outs.


  1. Jeff M

    July 5, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    I’d prefer to see Inge get back to the approach he had last year with gap power and a much better on base percentage.

    I’ll second that.

  2. Brian A.

    July 6, 2006 at 7:25 am

    I’ll third that. Actually it’s something that many people on the team should aspire to. The Tigers as a team have a pretty rotten OBP

  3. Kyle J

    July 6, 2006 at 8:22 am

    Not sure how big a factor it is statistically, but I’d think that Inge improving his OBP would have more benefit than for most #9 hitters given Granderson’s unusually good power numbers for a lead-off hitter.

    If Inge finishes the year with 30 HR and 90 RBI in the #9 hole, we won’t have any complaints, though.

  4. Joey C.

    July 6, 2006 at 11:23 am

    His power numbers have been impressive to be sure and he’s definitely come through with some timely dingers. However, in tight games he’s been driving me nuts. It’s fine that he wants to pull the ball, but I wish he’d shorten his stroke a bit when we have crucial baserunners who need to be moved along.

  5. Robert

    July 6, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    I believe Brandon has a good hot streak left. My concerns in order are: 1. Polonco in my view has not looked anything like the Polonco of last year. I thought it could be his back problems at first, now I’m not sure. Will the real Polonco please come out and PLAY.
    2. Monroe, where is he? Plays pretty good D, but is far from consistant offensively. Can he reach levels of last year?
    3. Shelton? He needs to see the ball and hit the ball. I feel like he can hit the .300 plus average with good power numbers but maybe I’m wrong.
    4. Maybe it’s time for a lineup adjustment. Too many solo HR’s.
    That’s pretty much it for the offense. If every hitter comes alive reaching expected levels in the second half, we won’t have to hope that the pitching can duplicate their first half.

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  7. Nick

    July 6, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    The Polanco of last year didn’t exactly look like the Polanco of the previous 7 years. I think it’s pretty likely this years Polanco is closer to the real Polanco than last years.

    We have to many solo HR’s because we don’t get on base. I don’t think it’s a lineup issue.

  8. Jason

    July 6, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    First things first: Inge is the cornerstone of our strong infield defense. He has excellent range and soft hands. He starts more 5-4-3 double plays than anybody since Gary Gaetti. He allows Guillen to shade towards the second-base bag. Talking about trading Inge is nuts.

    I agree with previous posters: Inge has changed his approach at the plate, and not for the better. His OBP is much lower than it could be. We have enough power already; we don’t need Inge swinging for the fences.

  9. Matt in Toledo

    July 7, 2006 at 7:45 am

    I’d love to see Inge raise his OBP, too. Even if it is at the expense of his newfound power. Especially since he seemed to be able to will it higher when he was batting leadoff. What REALLY bother me, though, are his mental mistakes. He strikes me as a player that thinks of himself as heady and smart, but in reality just makes a lot of bad choices on the field. (Popups on 3-0, bad baserunning, ill-timed bunts, etc.) I like the guy, but I wish he could “slow the game down” for himself more often.

  10. Jeff M

    July 7, 2006 at 9:23 am

    He strikes me as a player that thinks of himself as heady and smart

    I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization. He was happy with his switch to 3B because it was less taxing mentally and his hitting improved drastically when he switched to a “See ball. Hit ball.” mentality. He is certainly a superb athlete and that will carry him to a decent career, but I think WYSIWYG as far as the decision-making goes.

  11. Matt in Toledo

    July 7, 2006 at 10:12 am

    But if he weren’t somebody who saw himself as a heady player, he probably wouldn’t have been overly burdened by the requirements of catching. I think that’s probably a good argument for saying that he ISN’T a particularly smart player, but not really a good one for saying he doesn’t see himself as one.

  12. Dan

    July 7, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Kinda a funny quote in the Freep —

    “It seems like if I get a hit, it’s a home run,” said Inge.

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