Through the ups and downs of Brandon Inge’s tenure as a Detroit Tiger, dating back to 2001, I’ve been one of his bigger fans. His middle name has been versatile as he was drafted to play catcher despite being a shortstop/closer in college. After learning the catcher position, he was moved to third base upon the arrival of Pudge Rodriguez. Then he was moved to the outfield and was the opening day center fielder in 2008. Then he was shifted back to third in 2009 and this spring he’s been given a shot at earning a spot at second base.
But through the past couple years, the downs have outweighed the ups. And now, the weight of the downs have broken the levy. The guy can play all over the field, but his bat hasn’t and won’t cut the mustard. Since 2006, he has not higher than .247. The other four years, he hit .236, .205, .230 and .197. His best on-base percentage has been .321 over that span. That’s brutal.
Yes, he hit 27 home runs and drove in 84 in 2009 and he still may have a little pop in his bat. He’s admitted early in the spring that he’s in the best shape he’s been in in recent years. And while Jim Leyland has said that Inge has swung it well this spring, the results haven’t been there. Through 50 spring at bats, he has nine hits – good (or bad) for a .180 average. And while batting average is an overrated statistic, his OBP is a meager .226.
The Tigers will need a late-inning defensive replacement for Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner. But, it’s time for Danny Worth or Don Kelly to assume that role. Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago should have a lock on the second base job. Raburn could out-hit Inge in his sleep, but isn’t a great defender. Santiago has experience at second base, which gives him a serious leg up on Inge and he can handle the bat a little bit too. Don Kelly provides a left-handed bat and versatility to play the outfield in a pinch. And Worth can play three infield spots and has simply out-hit Inge this spring.
I’m not sure if other teams have any interest in assuming part of the six million dollars that Inge is due this year. Maybe some, but highly doubtful that anyone would assume all (through a trade). Should the Tigers find a suitor, they’ll be eating at least some of the deal – unless they accept a cheeseburger in return. Odds are, Inge will (and should) be released some time this weekend or early next week.
It has been a decent (or terrible) run for Inge as a Tiger depending on who you ask. But that decent/terrible time needs to come to an end.