The Tigers appear close to a long term contract with Brandon Inge. The deal is believed to be for 4 years and $24 million. This certainly seems like a reasonable deal for the Tigers, even before taking into account the current free agent landscape. The Tigers don’t have anyone in the minors knocking down the door to play third, so he won’t block anybody for awhile.
Inge has posted OPS+’s of 108, 100, and 99 over the last 3 years. So he’s pretty much a league average offensive player at a position that typically is above average offensively, making him a little below average with the bat.
American League third sackers hit 269/338/442 while Inge hit 253/313/463 last year. I’d love more OBP, but he does compensates somewhat with extra power. He’s 29 so I don’t expect much improvement at this point, but given his body type and athleticisism I also think that level of production is sustainable for the length of the contract. While the article says the intention is for Inge to play third throughout the contract, there is also the added bonus that if the Tigers can’t find a replacement for Pudge Rodriguez, Inge is certainly equipped to fill that need as well.
But of course the lightning rod of Brandon Inge discussions always focuses on defense. Detractors will look at the high error total and say he isn’t any good. That he makes some spectacular plays but that doesn’t make up for the easy ones. Proponents of Inge’s defense – like myself – will say that even with the errors he still saves more than enough runs to make up for the minor deficiencies in his offense. And so we’ll do that again here.
Turning to the Probabilistic Model of Range, Inge ranked near the top of all Major League third basemen. (PMR looks at the rate at which fielders turn ball put in play into outs while adjusting for the type of hit, where it was hit, and handedness of batter and pitcher) Inge made 26 more plays than expected. This is includes all those errors on plays he didn’t make. Using a value of .80 runs for each play made means that Inge saved the Tigers 20.8 runs with his glove which is more than enough to make up for the slight deficiency with his bat.
As a little more proof, other advanced defensive metrics agree with Pinto. Inge came out on top in the AL in Chris Dial’s sytem. Dial had Inge saving 20 runs per 150 games played. In the Bill James Handbook John Dewan listed the +/- leaders at each position. (the +/- system involves people watching every single play and giving credit based on whether or not others had made a similar play, a +/- of 0 means you’re average) Inge led all third basemen here as well with a +27.
Whether or not Inge is the best third basemen in the AL can be debated. Whether he is one of the best can not. Inge’s bat didnt’ earn him the contract. But his combined value with the glove and his versatility certainly did.