There always seems to be somebody who struggles to get going every year. This year the unfortunate soul is Brandon Inge. Here we are a week into the season and Inge has extended his hitless streak to 0 for 20.
Brandon was quoted in today’s paper as saying that his swing was real close, and that he’s just in a bad spell:
“I’m taking perfect swings,” said Inge, who is still searching for his first hit of the season after 17 official at-bats. “I think they’re cheating. They’ve got 20 infielders and outfielders out there.
As happy as I am that Inge isn’t worried, this outsider doesn’t see a swing that is close. Inge has fanned 8 times accounting for 40% of his outs. His contact rate is at 71% which is well below his career rate of 77%. And as of the other 12 at-bats, only 4 balls left the infield and those were routine fly balls. He did have one smash to second base, in which he was rewarded because the 2nd baseman couldn’t handle it.
Plus the fact that Inge struggled in spring training, hitting only 258 and slugging 355, makes me think something is amiss with his swing.
Now what’s really interesting is that it might not be entirely his swing that is the problem. Has Inge become – dare I say it – too patient? The bright spot in the spring was the 10 walks he drew to garner a .365 OBP. He’s drawn 3 walks in 2007 despite not hitting well at all.
Half of his strikeouts have come with Inge looking at a called 3rd strike. Normally called third strikes only account for a quarter to a third of strikeouts.
Inge is also seeing a remarkable 4.55 pitches per plate appearance which is well above the league average of 3.78 and substantially above Inge’s career rate of 4.04. Now because his contact rate is low, the elevated pitch count isn’t because he’s fouling off a lot of pitches. He’s just taking more than he’s ever taken before. And despite all the taking, he’s only seen 3 3-1 counts and only 1 2-0 count which means he’s starting off at-bats in the hole. In 13 of his 23 PA’s he’s taken a called strike to start the at-bat (to his credit he went on to draw 3 walks in those situations)
If we go with Inge’s belief that there isn’t anything wrong with his swing, then maybe the problem is he’s being forced to swing defensively in 2 strike counts. Some increased aggressiveness may serve him well. In any case, pitchers aren’t going to dance around the strike zone until he proves he can do some damage.