Inge’s Struggles


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.

16 thoughts on “Inge’s Struggles”

  1. Still, six games isn’t that many. Remember Pudge and Polanco and Ordonez and Granderson putting up 0’fers in the playoffs? We’re lucky it’s only Inge slumping right now, but what are you going to do? Shelton doesn’t play third.

  2. From observation, it seems to me that he’s too aggressive on many two-strike swings. He’s still trying to pull the ball, to hammer it, and swinging from his heels, even when down in the count. Rather, it would be nice to see him shorten up and try to go with the pitch a bit and use all fields.
    From Leyland’s comments yesterday, he says Brandon goes to RC with the best of ’em during BP, but not in games, so he’s obviously been working on doing just that.
    His body language today, however, showed the same frustration and confusion that Shelton was showing last year during his prolonged slump.
    All of this says to me that he’s over-thinking and pressing.
    His offensive success – when he’s had it – has been specifically from not thinking, but just seeing and reacting.
    His own observation that he’s “taking perfect swings” is not reflected in anyone else’s observations, as you’ve noted, Bilfer.
    He needs a hit to get off the schneid…and then a break. Give the man a day or two off to clear his head and get his focus back, because he’s thinking about everything but the “seeing the ball” right now.

  3. Great analysis…. I never even considered that it was over-abundant patience.

    You might want to reword that first sentence though. It implies that Inge is a slow starter every year when I think you just wanted to say that there’s at least one slow starter every year.

  4. Very nice delve into his “slump” Billfer. I agree with you about the patience at the plate hurting him. Maybe if Leyland puts more hit and run plays on – forcing him to swing, it will break this.

    Although in ’04 in April he had a .333 average, .984 OPS w/ 3 hrs, 15 RBIS

    Also, in ’05 in April he hit .333 again, with a .938 OPS w/2hrs, and 13 RBIS.

    So not always a slow starter, still I’d try to force him into swinging and if he doesn’t get a hit or two before we leave Baltimore, sit him against Bondo’s rematch with Halladay too tough a righty (hes 1-14).

    Try and correct the problem before you sit him, if gets ahold of one at beautiful Camden (very nice park), it could fly out.

  5. Bilfer,

    Very nice research. I think there is a big grain of truth in Inge’s being too patient. He is letting hittable pitches cruise “right down Broadway” early in the count. I also agree with Rings. Inge needs to get off of the power swing stroke and just make contact.

    He is way too pull and power happy. He needs to drive the balls pitched on the outer half of the plate to right and right center. He stroked a lot of balls to right center well the year he managed to hit .287. Though much of that average came from pitchers challanging what had been a .202 career hitter at the time. By waiting and driving pitches to right he will stand a better chance of making contact on off speed pitches where he is fooled.

    I am no fan of Inge’s, but I do support the Tigers. I will continue to advocate an upgrade at third, but we need Inge to produce at least something right now. I hope he pulls out of this, I really do.

  6. This all points toward a fundamental paradox: We all want the Tigers to (1) be more patient at the plate and (2) strike out less. Unfortunately, those two things are going to tend to work against one another. Asking hitters to do both of those things at the same time means asking them to get fundamentally better at recognizing hittable and unhittable pitches–a skill that I don’t think can be significantly improved once a baseline level of ability has been established.

    I love Inge; he single-handedly symbolizes the resurgence of the Tigers franchise. But he is what he is. He’s either a .250/25 HR hitter or a .280/12 HR hitter (and a real asset in the field). Here’s hoping he can get back to one of those levels sooner, rather than later.

  7. Bilfer,

    Now I am curious… any chance you have a breakdown of hits for Inge in ’04 when he hit .287? Seems like he was using more of the field then…

  8. Greg –

    It actually is if you look at the range of normal contact rates. The league average is 80%, and a super contact guy like Polanco is at 91%. Granderson, who had contact issues last year was at 71% for the year which is pretty close to the floor. A move of 6% points across a range that is only 20-25 is pretty significant.

    Now you do raise the point of sample size which is pretty much a given only 6 games in. But I’m not looking to predict what is going to happen, just describing what has happened during the slump and highlighting that everything may not be right with his swing.

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