By now, many of you are aware that the Tigers are reportedly going to allow the enigmatic Brandon Inge to try his hand at 2nd base in spring training. I rarely like to tackle Brandon as a subject in any article, but news is news, and Inge getting the opportunity to compete for the 2nd base job falls under that category.
As a lifelong Tigers fan, I have rarely, if ever, seen a player elicit such impassioned feelings from both sides of the spectrum. With Brandon Inge, you either love him or hate him. There really isn’t many people walking the blades of grass that constitute middle ground. Given the length of time that Inge has been in the organization, I suspect I know which end of the spectrum most people fall at this point. The word “welcome” on that mat is undoubtedly wearing thin for most Tigers fans.
I’m not about to head in the direction of defending Brandon Inge the player. I think what we have seen from him the past couple years speaks for itself. It’s difficult to defend a player, who as a starter, posts a sub-Mendoza Line batting average for an entire season. Especially from a position on the diamond which is typically a run producing spot in the lineup. Defense only players tend to find themselves in the up the middle positions. So, if you do fall in the ever shrinking “love him” category, I have to wonder what on earth have you been watching the past couple of years? Being a good guy shouldn’t buy you innings on a baseball diamond.
If you do fall on the “hate him” end of the spectrum, I assume that you that you aren’t on board with any move that could potentially put Brandon Inge in the lineup. Heck, I’ve read comments by posters that are more than willing for the Tigers and their brass to eat his contract and cut bait with him. I myself have even been on record as being okay with that. Not because Inge is a bad person, but because Inge as a 3B is a bad every day baseball player. Defensively, while Inge is still what you would call above average at 3B, his defense is slipping enough where it is becoming much more difficult to accept the anemic offense.
But that doesn’t mean allowing Inge to compete at 2B is a bad idea. If we really look at it, maybe we as fans on each end of the spectrum can come to that middle ground on Brandon Inge that does exist. After all, it isn’t like Inge hasn’t provided the Tigers with above average seasons before, and like it or not, the Tigers did give him a contract which is going to pay him 5.5M dollars in 2012. That is obviously an overpay, but crying over that spilled milk isn’t going to get us anywhere.
Recently, MCB writer Chris Hannum suggested that the Tigers consider Inge as the right-handed side of a platoon in LF, operating under the assumption that the Tigers intended to use Ryan Raburn at 2B. Hannum correctly pointed out that Inge is a pretty effective hitter when facing left-handed pitching only, and in this case, it certainly doesn’t harm the Tigers to take a look at whether or not he could handle 2B defensively.
If Brandon Inge can handle 2B at an average or above level defensively, there is no reason for him not to get some at-bats as the Tigers 2B. Not only does it push Raburn to LF as a right-handed platoon where he is more effective defensively, it gives the Tigers some potential pop at a position that wouldn’t have it if Ramon Santiago is manning the position every day. While I have always like Ramon for his solid contributions, let’s not act like he is a potential All-Star or anything.
Many people don’t realize that Brandon Inge was at one time a SS. In fact, that’s what he was drafted as coming out of Virginia Commonwealth University. His athleticism is what has allowed him to move around the diamond and play the catching, 3B, and LF spots all at above average levels. Despite turning 35 years old in 2012, I would suggest at the very least, Inge still possesses enough athleticism to translate to the 2B position pretty well. Certainly I don’t see Ramon Santiago as being a superior athlete to Brandon.
Brandon Inge has a career OPS of .800 against left-handed pitching. Ramon Santiago has a career OPS of .642 against lefties. As the right side of a platoon at 2B, given those numbers, it might not be that bad of an idea to let Inge try out 2B. If he fails, the “hate him” crowd could potentially get their wish of him being cut loose. If he can play the position defensively, the “love him” crowd will likely get to see him for another year in a Tigers uniform.
No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, can’t we just agree one this…….
What can it possibly hurt to give it a try?