It’s no secret that Brandon Inge hasn’t been pulling his weight on offense this year. The problem is so pronounced that we have seen Don Kelly (he of the noodle bat) getting more PT at 3rd, and fans applauding. So what exactly is our 12 million dollar man doing wrong?
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: normal Brandon Inge is still a below average hitter, but he tries to make up the lost ground with his glove. Comparing this year’s Brandon Inge to David Wright or Adrian Beltre is silly – he was signed to do what he has done the past 5 years. That player is one who strikes out a lot and pops out a lot leading to a pretty dismal batting average.
If you compare model 2011 Inge to the Inges of the past, he’s not striking out more (like Mr. Raburn). His 25.2% this year is bad, but it’s actually better than his career mark of 25.6%. His walk rate is down a little, from 8% to 7.1% and his BABIP is sitting at an unusually low (even for Inge) .263. That, of course, is directly related to his unusually low (even for Inge) .205 batting average.
His line drive rate is actually up this year, significantly up. His flyball percentage is up as well, so the fact that part of that is an uptick in popups shouldn’t be too much of a concern. The one simple driving factor behind all of the other stats is a home run to flyball ratio far below his career norms. You’ve all seen it quite a few times this year, Inge gets all of it and it still winds up in somebody’s glove.
With about 150 at bats, each at bat means about a .0066 point swing in batting average. That means that Inge’s low BA (and low BABIP, of course) are all due to less than 5 hits that haven’t fallen this year. Sure, 5 hits woudn’t make such an enormous difference to OPS, right? If they were singles. Inge’s HR/FB rate this year is 1.9% compared to a career average of 10% – that’s a missing 4.3 homers. Since the approximately 5 hits Inge hasn’t gotten have (for all intents and purposes, to be precise he’s probably missing half a line drive single too) all been home runs caught at or near the warning track that has a disproportionate impact on his OPS. His OBP would be a still-terrible .289, but his SLG would shoot up to .417. A .238/.289/.417 third baseman isn’t great, but it’s basically what Illitch was expecting when he wrote the check.
My big question is this: Has Inge been unlucky? Has it been cold, wet weather? Or is Inge really losing that tiny bit of extra pop he needs to be an everyday major leaguer?