Before you lambaste me for adding to the cascade of Brandon Inge stories—most of which have been told hundreds of times—let me say that I have never written anything about the man longer than 140 characters. I’m not doing this for hits—I really think you ought to know what I’m about to tell you. (Those who follow me on Twitter may have already seen a post on this subject a couple of days ago).
Inge’s plate approach is bad. It’s awful. You know this and may have even joked that his favorite pitch is a curveball four feet outside and in the dirt. I’m here to confirm it’s not just you and your potential anti-Inge bias; there’s statistical data to back this up.
Baseball Info Solutions curates plate discipline numbers—pitches (balls and strikes) and results (swing or no swing) are classified by humans—which are available at FanGraphs. Available metrics include O-Swing%, the percentage of pitches outside the zone which the batter has swung at, and Z-Swing%, the percentage of strikes the batter has swung at. Based on those figures, Inge’s plate discipline has reached an almost unprecedented low. His O-Swing% currently sits at 46.9%, which is the seventh-highest rate in baseball for players with at least 20 plate appearances (a number Inge reached last night). The worst part, though, is that his Z-Swing% is actually seven tenths of a percentage point lower at 46.2%, making him the only player in the 20+ plate appearance sample who has swung at a higher percentage of balls than he has strikes. No one comes close—the recent Detroit export Clete Thomas has the next-lowest Z-Swing% minus O-Swing% at 7.9%.
Inge can take solace in the fact that his line drive rate of 7.1% is higher than that of six guys with 20+ plate appearances, including teammate Ryan Raburn, whose 2.9% is the worst in the league.
Of course, a sample size of 20 plate appearances won’t often get a veteran player kicked off a team—but I won’t get into that. Neither Inge nor Raburn are in the starting lineup tonight against Seattle Mariners right-handed ace Felix Hernandez.