I first have to apologize to our readers. This isn’t some ploy to garner traffic hits by writing yet another piece on Brandon Inge. You see, Inge is one of those guys that just propels debate amongst Tigers fans, so he is somewhat of a favorite topic. Not just here, but other sites that talk about the Tigers as well. Our own Bryan Craves just put his two cents in on Inge a couple days ago. Added to the polarizing qualities of Mr. Inge is the fact that he is fighting for a job this spring, and his supporters and detractors alike are watching closely. Half are ready to cheer if he doesn’t make it, half ready to scream about the Tigers and their fans lack of loyalty to their hometown son.
It was the Tigers organization that came out and said when Brandon Inge asked to tryout for 2nd base that he was going to have to show he can hit. They knew he could field. We all know he can field. But you know what, his main competition, Danny Worth, can field as well. In fact, Danny Worth can field SS as well, something that Inge hasn’t done in quite a while.
There has been some speculation that Danny Worth could possibly make the roster as well as Brandon Inge. After all, Ryan Raburn can play LF, and probably better than Delmon Young. So can Don Kelly, once again, and this time there is no doubt, Kelly can play the outfield better than Delmon Young. Those two guys flexibility means that Inge and Worth could potentially be the backups and mean that Andy Dirks would find himself in Toledo. That’s not really fair to Dirks, who has had himself a quality spring and is in his own battle with the out of options Clete Thomas.
Bottom line, this should be about Brandon Inge and Danny Worth, may the best man win.
So far this spring, if it is about taking the better player, it’s not even close. Danny Worth has outperformed Brandon Inge in essentially every way possible. Inge is hitting a putrid .174, with a BB/K ratio of 3/8. His OPS this spring? Its a real weak .507. The thing is, that is only about 140 points less than his two previous years combined. In fact, Brandon Inge and Danny Worth’s offensive numbers in the bigs the past two years are eerily similar. Worth just hasn’t had near the sample size. Given that information, why shouldn’t it be a fair competition this spring?
Worth is hitting .313 this spring with a BB/K ratio of 5/6 and a robust OPS of .957. Now, nobody, including myself, expects Worth to be able to continue that during the regular season. He just isn’t that type of hitter. No matter what his spring numbers say. The point is though, he is producing.
I’ve heard way too many times to count that spring numbers don’t mean a thing. And, well, they don’t most of the time. If Prince Fielder had one hit in 30 at-bats, it wouldn’t mean a thing. But shouldn’t numbers mean something when two somewhat equal players are in competition for a job, and one guy is clearly outperforming the other? What else do we go on? Track record? Yes, Inge has a long history of major league performance, some of that is not too bad. But he hasn’t performed well for two years at least. The goodwill generated in the first half of 2009 is running out.
I’m not naive to think that this doesn’t have something to do with the salary that the Tigers owe Brandon Inge. The Tigers and GM David Dombrowski gave Inge a pretty sizable contract for what he has given the team, and it is natural that the organization would want to get something from it. Worth has options and Inge is making 5.5M dollars this year. This is an unfortunate reality for Danny Worth, but that is no reason to keep a player that has been outperformed, especially when the owner has already spent a ton of money, and Worth won’t add anything to the payroll.
The reality might very well be that Danny Worth would produce exactly what Brandon Inge could give the Tigers, but when it comes down to it, Danny Worth is earning the job and Brandon Inge is losing it. The Tigers said that Inge would have to show he could hit to earn a job. He hasn’t hit. Danny Worth has.
If all things were equal, Danny Worth should be a Tiger come opening day. Unfortunately for him, given Inge’s contract situation, all things aren’t equal. I expect the Tigers work really hard to justify a spot on the team for Brandon, and I expect that is going to make half of us a little bit angry.