Monday, April 9, 2012

7 comments Drew Sharp Doesn't Want the Brandon Inge Dream to Be Over

Now that his cheering against John Calipari in the NCAA Tournament didn't really really work out for him, Drew Sharp has turned his attention to more important matters. Specifically, Drew Sharp is glad the Detroit Tigers aren't being so quick to make a decision on Brandon Inge. The Tigers have put Inge on the 15-day DL and Drew Sharp thinks the Tigers just need to give Inge more time with the team. The topic of Brandon Inge would be decisive for Tigers fans if it didn't seem most Tigers fans wanted Inge gone as soon as possible. From what I understand, the best part about the Prince Fielder signing was that it meant Cabrera could go to third base and Brandon Inge could go away from the field and not be a threat to get 400 at-bats in a season. Anyway, Drew Sharp is part of the Brandon Inge fan club and says there is no need to rush a decision.

Inge is one of those players that sportswriters seem to love. He's a dirt dog, a guy who grits out every bat, and what they seem to love most about him, he now has limited baseball skills. The Tigers have a few better, younger options available to them than Inge. Danny Worth can play multiple positions and the same thing for Don Kelly. Danny Worth is especially (sorry) worth taking a look at as the backup at third base. He's only 26 and has been hitting the ball well in Spring Training. Still, Drew Sharp disagrees. It's too early to make a decision on Brandon Inge and he doesn't believe the Tigers should base any personnel decisions on Inge's Spring Training stats from this year or Inge's regular season numbers for the last six seasons. Sharp apparently believes Inge may buck his career trends and start walking and getting base hits at the age of 34 (35 in May). He wants Tigers fans to calm down and implores Tigers management to not make a drastic decision that could improve the Tigers team.

The fate of Detroit's most polarizing professional athlete could come today, but if the Tigers' officials were truly wise, they'd buy themselves a little more time.

I guess my question would be, "What are they buying time for?" Time to make a decision they know they have already made? Inge can hit home runs, but he doesn't get on-base and the time has come for younger guys to get a shot as a backup.

Inge still is hobbled with a strained groin. Shut him down for two weeks. Put him on the 15-day disabled list,

This is, in fact, what the Tigers decided to do. The issue becomes when Inge comes back, he will end up cutting into the playing time of others and take up a roster spot. I'm sure he is well-liked in the locker room, but I don't see a reason he should take playing time away from guys like Danny Worth.

Inge spent most of Spring Training trying to convince us his 2011 season .197/.265/.283 was no aberration, as he posted a batting average of .180/.226/.300 during Spring Training. Mission accomplished. I don't in any way believe Inge's 2011 season was an aberration. These numbers can be compared to Worth's .308/.391/.513 average during Spring Training. I do realize Spring Training stats aren't the best type of data to base a conclusion upon, but Worth is 8 years younger than Inge and has posted a line of .270/.308/.324 in 37 at-bats during the 2011 season. For Worth to get more statistics upon which to judge him, the Tigers would actually have to give him more at-bats...which means not give Inge at-bats. The Tigers are trying to win a championship and I think Worth gives them the best chance to do that as a backup, especially since he is more versatile at this point than Inge. Worth can play shortstop and second base, as well as third base.

followed by the requisite rehabilitation assignment in Triple-A Toledo.

And then keep Inge in Triple-A or perhaps...see if another team wants Brandon Inge to play in their minor league farm system, if you know what I mean.

Let him heal. Let the season start. Let Miguel Cabrera show he can handle third base regularly without a goalie mask.

This is as opposed to Inge being able to handle the bat without the pitcher throwing underhand to him. Besides, Cabrera is worth much more to the Tigers at third base compared to Inge even if he ends up being a butcher with the glove.

There's no need to rush a decision.

Of course, the Tigers have only had all offseason and Spring Training to decide if Inge is worth keeping on as a backup. No need to rush this decision. Inge will still be an effective hitter once he is no longer on the DL, especially since he hasn't been an especially effective hitter before he was on the DL.

Sure, cutting Inge now would appease those so irrationally obsessed with the guy.

This is as opposed to keeping Inge on the roster, which would appease those so irrationally obsessed with the guy. These people tend to be Detroit sportswriters who love themselves some Inge and what he provides "beyond" the box score or seemingly overly care about his current status.

Such news would trigger a "celebration" reminiscent of the destructive idiocy on display Saturday night in Lexington, Ky., after Kentucky advanced to tonight's national championship game.

Just another reason it is tough to cheer for John Calipari, right? If Calipari didn't have all those one-and-done players that are an abomination to college basketball I bet there wouldn't have been any rioting.

But determining Inge's remaining value can occur only when he's healthy enough for an honest evaluation.

So we should judge Inge when is healthy...

Like in 2010 when he hit .247/.321/.397 with 13 home runs, 134 strikeouts and 54 walks?

Or like in 2009 when he hit .230/.314/.406 with 27 home runs, 170 strikeouts and 54 walks?

Or possibly his other healthy season in 2007 when he hit .236/.312/.376 with 14 home runs, 150 strikeouts, and 47 walks?

Or we could use his "career" year in 2006 when he hit .253/.313/.463 with 27 home runs, 128 strikeouts, and 43 walks?

These are his healthy years of late. I think that's a pretty good indication of Inge's value. He hits some home runs, doesn't get on-base and enjoys a good strikeout. I'm not sure how using his three healthy years since 2007 doesn't given an honest evaluation of Inge as a player. 2006 stands out as Inge's best year and it hasn't been much better since then.

Don't waste your breath arguing about Inge's sub-.200 spring-training batting practice as the last convincing argument against him staying on the roster.

Oh, I won't. I will use his terrible (if not injury-driven) 2011 statistics and every year since 2007 as proof he probably shouldn't be on the roster at the expense of other younger, more versatile, higher ceiling players. Don't waste your breath pretending Inge's sub-.200 spring-training batting average is completely out of character for him.

If Florida numbers are the predominant yardstick for measuring regular-season success, somebody needs to explain how Jhonny Peralta was an All-Star last summer with nearly 90 RBIs for the season when he didn't drive in a single run during the exhibition season.

Florida Spring Training numbers aren't the yardstick for Inge being on or off the roster, but Inge's performance over the last five years (and the fact he has had injuries last year gives the Tigers more reason to not keep him around), PLUS the Spring Training performance of other potential backup third basemen are a good reason to not have Inge on the major league team. It's fine to not hold his Spring Training numbers against him, but the Tigers can't ignore another third baseman who is hitting the ball better than Inge. At a certain point, a team has to go with the best player for that team, regardless of how nice of a guy a player is or how long he has been with the team.

Manager Jim Leyland told reporters recently that he doesn't consider himself a "performance guy."

It's a good thing a World Series isn't won based on a team's performance or else this statement would be troubling.

He doesn't exclusively rely on hard numbers when making hard decisions.

Tigers fans understand that Jim Leyland has made the fact he doesn't rely on hard numbers quite clear over the past few years, especially regarding Brandon Inge. Inge would be a great backup third basemen for a team. It's just the Tigers have third base backups who could potentially be better backups AND can also play shortstop, second base and even the outfield.

When asked specifically about Inge's performance, he pointed to how it's perhaps more important that he was better squaring the ball on the meaty center of the bat.

It's much better than Danny Worth, who keeps getting base hits, but unfortunately all of his base hits are on the fatty part of the bat.

He's just unfortunately hitting the ball directly at people.

And apparently this issue has been happening for what---five or six years now? It's almost like it is getting to the point Inge's struggles could be attributed to more than bad luck. But he is hitting the ball on the meaty part of the there's always that to hang his hat on.

Inge has to hit to keep his place on the roster.

No, he doesn't. This type of statement is unconvincing. Why does he HAVE to keep his place on the roster? You like him? He's a veteran Tigers player? This is idiotic thinking that a player HAS to have a place on the roster, performance be damned.

But if Cabrera smoothly handles the defensive transition to third, as hoped, he only has to hit enough to maintain his spot as role player/insurance policy.

But what if there is a younger player who is more capable than Inge of handling this role? This is why Inge doesn't have to be on the team?

What Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski must determine is whether Inge is more capable than Danny Worth of sprinkling a few extra-base hits in that batting average barely hovering over .200.

Based on a comparison of Worth's minor league numbers and Inge's recent statistics it shows Inge seems to have more power and would possibly be capable of a few more extra-base hits. We have not seen Danny Worth get 200 at-bats in the majors yet, so it is possible Worth would be a better extra-base hitter at this point. Of course, Drew Sharp has created his own criteria to determine who should win the backup third base man job That criteria is "whether Inge is more capable than Danny Worth of sprinkling a few extra-base hits into the average." If you add "which player would get on-base more, is more versatile and has the potential to help the Tigers more two years down the road with regular at-bats now," then the answer could be Worth.

The money's irrelevant. He's getting $5.5 million this season, plus there's a $500,000 buyout.

Right. The money is irrelevant. It is a sunk cost, so unless the Tigers can get another team to pay part of Inge's salary in a trade it should not factor in to whether the Tigers keep Inge or not. What else is irrelevant is how much you like Inge personally and whether he has been on the Tigers' roster for a while or not. From a business point of view, Don Kelly or Danny Worth may be the better choice. Inge is what he is. He doesn't get on-base a lot and he isn't going to continue improving. In fact, he will probably regress more as he ages and he is 34 years old now. The same can't be said for Danny Worth. He is 26 years old and should be close to his playing prime.

If he stays, it'll have nothing to do with what they're paying him, but rather how much he could still contribute, if only in a limited reserve role.

Well, he is hitting the ball on the meaty part of the bat. He just keeps hitting the ball to the other team, so apparently Inge either isn't a great hitter or he has really bad luck.

The criticism surrounding Inge has officially crossed the border into the ridiculous. How long until he's blamed for Detroit's financial crisis or the bounty scandal that decimated the New Orleans Saints.

Don't give Sean Payton or the New Orleans Saints any ideas like this one. They will do anything to "Free Sean Payton."

Inge is now a caricature, becoming part punch line, part piƱata.

These things tend to occur when a player is very obviously declining or doesn't generally perform well on the field and the manager keeps trotting that player out there. It may not be fair, but Inge makes $6 million and his performance doesn't reflect a person who should be making that much money. Fans get frustrated seeing certain players get put in the lineup or kept on the roster who just don't seem to perform on the field.

He's responsible for some of that with an overly inflated sense of self-importance and, when you've hit as poorly as he has, you make yourself an easy target.

So Drew Sharp thinks the criticism directed at Inge is absurd, but also acknowledges Inge hasn't the ball well and believes himself to be better than he truly is. So is the criticism absurd? Inge is overpaid, underperforms, and (even the author admits) has an inflated sense of self-importance. Aren't these the type of athletes who deserve criticism?

But he has maintained a professional presence

As long as he conveys his ineptness in an professional manner then I see no problems with his staying on the roster until he is at least 45 years old.

and remains a solid enough defensive player that he could still help the Tigers late in a tight game.

This does have value. Is it wise to spend a roster spot on a guy as a late inning replacement when there are other players on the roster who would also be an upgrade from Miguel Cabrera defensively and could hit better than Inge as the regular backup third baseman? I'm not so sure.

There's nothing lost in keeping him around for a while and seeing what develops.

Yes, there is. After Inge gets off the DL, there is something lost in keeping him around. What is lost is a roster spot and at-bats for younger players who may be able to contribute more to the team. What is there to see develop? Inge will be 35 years old in May, he isn't going to suddenly get on-base.

Drew Sharp criticizes those who don't want Inge to make the Tigers roster, but his only reasoning for keeping Inge around amounts to "maybe he will magically improve as a baseball player despite all evidence to the contrary" and "why is everyone so mean to him?"


jacktotherack said...

What is so awesome is Sharp says the criticism of Inge has grown absurd and then not only does he acknowledge legitimate reasons fans have to criticize Inge, he makes an incredibly absurd argument about Inge looking better in spring training because he is hitting the ball off "the meaty part of the bat."

rich said...

Hey remember when Inge made the AS team while hitting under .250? That was pretty spectacular.

Brandon Inge is a slightly more powerful David Eckstein, but also with less ability to actually get on base.

Brandon Inge sucks.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, exactly. It's basically Sharp saying, "I know Inge isn't very good, but give him another chance. Just one more chance simply b/c I am asking." '

It's not like the Tigers are contending for a WS or anything, so why not get Inge at-bats?

Rich, I do remember that. I remember when he was in the HR Derby too. David Ecksten is offended you compared him to Brandon Inge.

Dusty Evely said...

Two things:

1. At this point, Inge isn't even a stellar defender. Both Dirks and Kelly are superior. And younger. Leyland mentioned something about Inge possibly starting some games at 2B, but that would knock out Raburn (a better hitter) or Santiago (a better hitter AND defender). What I'm saying is, Inge shouldn't be playing in the majors anymore. But he probably will, because Leyland loves him.

2. I currently live in Lexington. The riots were blown way out of proportion. Basically, all the riots were located on State Street...which is where the frat houses are. So you had a bunch of drunken frat kids getting drunk and burning stuff. That happens regardless of a National Championship. The rest of the town celebrated without destroying anything.
I know this was a minor comment, but I just thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Bengoodfella said...

I am too lazy to look it up, but I am pretty sure Inge hasn't played 2B for a few years now. He's a good defensive 3B, but that's about it. I'm not sure his defense is worth having his bat in the lineup for 250 at-bats. I've heard frustration from Tigers fans at Inge being in the lineup b/c Leyland loves him. It doesn't make a ton of sense to me, but managers tend to have their favorites and they'll be damned if they don't get them some at-bats. I simply see better options than Inge in the Detroit lineup. I don't see why Drew Sharp thinks this decision needs more time.

So the frat houses were rioting? Has that ever happened before? I didn't even really pay attention to the riots. That shit happens all the time when a team wins the national title. It's always the idiots that give the rest of the population a bad name.

Dusty Evely said...

As far as I know, Inge has never played 2B. But Leyland was talking about giving him some time there this season. Because the possibility of throwing a sub-.200 hitter with declining defense into the line-up is a great way to win games.
Yesterday's game is a strange and perfect example of Inge's abilities. He was hitting DH, and he was batting 8th. He got pulled for Boesch fairly early (4th or 5th inning, I believe) because the bases were loaded with 1 out. Why even have him at DH if you're going to pull him? WHY?!

Bengoodfella said...

Dustin, when I was doing some research on Inge for this post, I saw that he had played 2B a couple of times in his career...if I am not wrong. Still, he is a much better 3B in regard to defense.

I would have no idea why you put a guy in the lineup as the DH and pull him, unless it is a RH/LH thing. If the other team didn't change pitchers to a RH pitcher then I don't get why Inge was out there in the first place either. I think Leyland just wants to keep him on the team at this point.