Could Brandon Inge be poised for a breakout?

The often offensively challenged Brandon Inge started out the season homering in 3 straight games. While he has dropped off the 162 homer season pace he was on, there is some statistical evidence to suggest that Inge may be on his way to an improved offensive year.

John Dewan of ACTA Sports (the same group that publishes The Fielding Bible) has been looking at spring training performances and how they translate to the regular season. They have found that a very good spring may be an indication of things to come.

For the most part, we agree with the common perception that they don’t have value. A bad spring training means nothing. An average spring training tells us nothing. Nevertheless, we did find that when a player has an exceptional spring, it does suggest a better than a 60% chance they will take their game up a notch.

An exceptional spring is defined as posting a slugging percentage .200 better than career norms. There are 46 such players on this year’s list including one Brandon Inge who rode 5 grapefruit league homers to a .593 slugging percentage which is .202 better than his .392 mark. The surge has been attributed to a new stance and hand position at the plate.

Now as Dewan notes historically there is a 60% shot of improved performance, so it isn’t a guarantee. However those are still some noteworthy odds.

17 thoughts on “Could Brandon Inge be poised for a breakout?”

  1. While Brandon’s early season performance has been nothing short of impressive – and gives one hope that he finally has “figured it out” – he does usually put together a decent month every year at some point. Heck, Sean Casey was Babe Ruth over the first five games of the World Series.
    I’m happy to give credit where due in his case, if he can put together a solid season, but we’re dealing with a pretty small sample size at this point.

  2. Inge’s bat speed is a heck of a lot better with the new stance. Before it seemed like he was swinging late at everything, but now he at least has a chance to hit the ball and with much more power.

  3. Inge has shown in the past that he can hit with power, at least on occasion. I’ll start believing it when he shows that he can cut down on the Ks and get runners in from scoring position with less than two outs with more regularity.

  4. I like the fact that Inge is doing better, hey who wouldnt. If he keeps it up we will all be happy. In my mind BI is a solid player if he keeps up what he has done in the past few years, adds 60 pts to his BA and cuts down on the Ks.
    Look at Troy Glaus for instance Inge is a way better fielder but is just shy on the hitting component and Glaus is hurt a lot. Brandon is worth 5 mil all day long with a Glaus type bat.

    Im reasonably sure David will have a foot or two of post on this subject. Probably after he finishes polishing his full size bronze bust of Branden in the front yard. 😉

  5. To be honest, I would really rather the Tigers did well, than Inge compile a super-duper or even fantastic season. If Inge hits .280 with 25dingers scores and knocks in 80 that’d be really nice. Along with the defense I saw yesterday it SHOULD win him an award or two. It would greatly help this team win games, Lloyd McClendon’s reputation as a hitting instructor and Leyland’s job status.

    I also hope that he has “figured it out” or put in better terms figured how to master himself. And most importantly figured how to go the opposite way(use 100% of the field rather than 50%).

    Just looking at his career splits

    He usually is a career first half hitter (especially June)

    Steve I’m a much bigger fan of Cobb than of Inge if that says anything. Like Rings said it is a pretty small sample size, but my fantasy teams sure aren’t hurting this week as I took him and Salty as my AL catchers.

  6. @billfer: Thanks for posting this–it never occurred to me to even think about comparing spring training performance with regular season, partly because there is no correlation between TEAM records in spring training vs regular season. (I’m guessing the difference may be that the W/L records are more dependent on pitching, and the way pitchers are used in spring training?)

  7. @Chancey: When he gets runners in from scoring position with less than 2 outs more regularly?? You’re wanting Pujols out there? That’s asking a bit much. Last season with runner on 3rd less than 2 out–best on the Tigers? Inge (75% runners scored), Cabrera close behind (74%). In fact, with players >300 AB, Inge was 5th best in the AL. Good luck getting better than that out of him this season.

    Another stat: advancing baserunner with runner on 2nd and 0 outs–best on Tigers? Inge 52% (Guillen 51%, Granderson & Cabrera 46%. Larish had 80% but only 5 opportunities, hopefully that is s good sign for this season though). Partly because Inge looks like the best bunter on the team (successful 5/5 attempts in 2008, 85% career).

    As far as the strikeouts, no argument there! Hopefully the new stance helps on the low-outside 3rd strikes. And by the way, I don’t think we’ve seen a checked swing yet from Inge this year, have we? That in itself may be a positive sign…

  8. Wow. Very interesting stats, Coleman. I would not have guessed Inge did that well in those situations.

  9. @Slashpyne: That’s what makes looking up Inge interesting, especially since often you find his good categories contradict common perceptions about him, and vice-versa, e.g. “Inge is a rally killer.” The one situational about him that I really dislike: he does better in the early months of the season than the later ones, AND he does better in the earlier innings of games than later innings. (It doesn’t seem to be a pressure type of things, since his numbers are good in “clutch” situations…fatigue maybe?)

  10. Man, I was so close to letting Inge have his early season success without being Debbie Downer. This reminds me of the scene in Anchorman where Ron Burgundy explains a fairly illogical conclusion with a shrug of the shoulders, an impish smile and says, ‘It’s science.’
    I’m gonna go with the fact that Inge is nearly 32, has a lifetime batting average of .237 with a 304 oba and more career strikeouts than hits and has hit below .205 more times than he has hit over .250 as a more likely indicator of 09 performance than a series against the Jays and spring training. (And yes I know I am somewhat distorting Billfer’s argument).
    But, if we’re defining an Inge breakout as .248, .327 oba and 19 home runs and 71 rbis, then I say its at least 40% possible!

  11. Stephen – and it’s not so much an argument he’s going to breakout and I agree that his entire body of work should carry more weight. It is simply relating his early season and spring success to other research that was done. This was information more than prediction on my part.

    Also, breakout is a relative description based on past talent. The study doesn’t say he has a 60% chance of becoming an All Star, but in bettering his established performance level.

  12. Last question, for anyone. I’ve only seen one of the games live, is Adam and Brandon’s defensive lapses a reason for concern? I guess I’m more concerned with Everett because he’s had more injuries and maybe he’s lost the proverbial step. So if anyone wants to weigh in with their opinions, let me know.

  13. It’s too early to gauge. It could just be the elements. Playing on Totonto’s turf and the cold weather here in Detroit are both good excuse for botching up plays.
    Inge has made a few fantastic plays already, but Everett hasn’t done anything special yet with the leather.

  14. The biggest thing I’ve noticed with Everett is that he hasn’t transferred the ball from his glove well. That was his error yesterday. It cost a DP in Toronto, and it also happened on a diving play that he fielded. So that doesn’t appear injury related at all.

    As far as his range goes, I’ve read/heard that he does quite a bit of adjusting based on hitter/pitch/pitcher. I don’t know if he’ll improve as he gets to know the staff. Also, I think it’s a little early to judge range. But he hasn’t been impressive at all so far.

  15. Inge is a classic example of what horse-racing types would call “hidden form.”. (Well, if he were a horse…and too bad he’s not). At first glance it’s pretty obvious what his upper limit is, and also obvious that he’s in decline. Except if you look a bit below the surface that isn’t true. If you isolate his stats AS A 3B, he’s quite consistent, and in fact 2008 was one of his best seasons in many categories, the most interesting of which I think is Pitches per Plate Appearance.

    If you look back both Inge and Leyland mentioned this as a focus for both Inge and the team, and you have to say Inge succeeded. In retrospect I think it hinted to Inge’s ability to successfully alter his approach at the plate. (and unlike catching he never even griped about it).

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