Baseball BeatOctober 22, 2010
News and Views: Brandon Inge
By Rich Lederer

News: The Tigers re-signed 3B Brandon Inge to a 2-year, $11.5 million contract, with an option for 2013. Inge would have been a free agent.

Views: What am I missing here? Most of Inge's value is tied to his defensive prowess at third base. However, his advanced fielding metrics have been in a steady decline since 2006 when he led the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating at 19.0. It fell to 11.2 in 2007, 4.1 in 2008 (when he also played C and CF), 6.6 in 2009, and 3.1 in 2010. While Inge is still above average, the trend is not your friend here. Nor is his age. He turns 34 next May.

Over the past five years, Inge has hit .236/.313/.405 with an OPS+ of 88. His OPS+ has only exceeded 100 one time — 109 in 2004 during his age-27 season. He strikes out at an alarmingly high rate at about once every four trips to the plate. The righthanded hitter has never hit for a high average on balls in play (career rate of .285 with a peak of .316 in 2004). His baserunning is nothing to write home about. To wit, he made 10 outs on the bases last year, excluding the three times he was caught stealing in seven attempts.

Shake it all up and it's difficult for me to see why Inge is worthy of such a contract. At best, Inge may add two wins above a replacement player. At $3M per win, he could be worth $6M (vs. an average annual salary of $5.75M). If you want to ascribe a higher value per win, be my guest. Either way, I believe the downside risk is greater than the upside reward. If Inge continues to lose range in the field, he could actually become a liability at the hot corner. In that case, Inge would be nothing more than a platoon player and pinch hitter (career .267/.342/.465 vs. LHP) and perhaps a positive influence on the bench and in the clubhouse.

The contract is not a disaster, but it's one that leaves me nonplussed.

For Joe Pawlikowski's take, be sure to read his analysis of Inge's contract at FanGraphs.


Fans in Tom Tango's Fans Scouting Report haven't changed their opinions, rating him as the 5th best defensive 3rd baseman in baseball in 2010. Qualitiatively, he' still a true talent (in my opinion) of 5+ runs defensively each year.

Thanks, Mike. I don't know if we differ all that much, other than perhaps I'm more skeptical about the likelihood that his fielding is going to hold up over the next two years.

If you want to rate him at 5+ runs, that means he is worth about a half win in the field. Give him a couple wins for replacement and positional value and now we're at about 2 1/2 wins. Subtract a half run to a full run for his offense and we're back at no better than a 2-win type player. Factoring in the advancing age and it seems to me that he's more likely to be worth 1.5 wins than 2.5 wins.

Inge is a quality third baseman. He is also a fan favorite. He has a good reputation as a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman. Brandon is relatively sure handed at the hot corner and led the league in fielding percentage in 2010. He has a strong arm as well. However, the advanced metrics suggest that his fielding range has diminished over the past few years to the point where it is now below average. I doubt that he will regain the lost range at the age of 34 or 35. Should he revert to making 18-23 errors (as he did from 2005-07 and 2009) rather than the 9 he made last season, I believe he will no longer be anything more than an average defensive third baseman. But I'm willing to be proven wrong here.

Yeah, we aren't that far off. I guess I was just saying I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up 'elite' fielding numbers next year -- he was less than 7-8 months removed from double-knee surgery last winter. That can be spun two ways: he is going to be more healthy this year with a non-surgery-laden off season, or that his knees are more likely to be injured again in the near future.

Either way, I think it being more of an indifference feeling is the right one to have towards this deal. The bigger issue is the fact that the Tigers are content to go with Jhonny Peralta as the starting SS.

I'm sorry, but the value of a win on the free agent market is supposed to be roughly 4 to 4.5 million even with the economic downturn, correct?

Its definitely not a value deal for the tigers, but I don't see how its that terrible.

If I'm the Tigers, I'm offering a one-year deal for $5 million with a $5 million option for 2012. The economy won't be getting any better.

I think you're mainly correct, but I think the knee surgery may be a reason for a bit of optimism, if you're looking for something you may be, "missing." It's possible that with another winter to recover, he may regain some of his range. Probably still too much money either way, but I don't think it's a particularly strikingly bad contract. Especially since it's only 2 years. I've seen Dombrowski waste way more money than this.

RICH asks "What Am I Missing?"

Inge's jersey sales are to the Tigers what Jeter jerseys are to the Yankees.

With Inge, Peralta and Guillen in the infield
the pitchers will be suffering.

I would perfer Worth and Rymes in the infield, with whoever at third {Inge or Guillen}.

RevHalo is right.
I went to a White Sox game opening weekend of 2008 in Detroit and in the margins of my score book I jotted down "Detroit LOVES Inge!"
He is definitely a fan favorite there.

As others have said Brandon Inge is a huge fan favorite. Unless you've been to a game at Comerica, you wouldn't believe just how much of a fan favorite Inge really is.

I would bet if someone did a study of jersey sales per WAR, Inge would be at the top.

Inge stinks that's the bottom line and should have been told to hit the road

Inge went through all the really lean years with the Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch is loyal to his own, besides paying pretty well in general. So it's no surprise that he would pay Inge well - although on today's market, it's not at all an absurd contract. Two years for about a half-million more than Doyle thought he should get (but what does that dummy know? ;-). It's not long-term, it's not way over market - just a little reward for Brandon's years of service.

Inge is an underachiever as a hitter (though he is capable of 20+ HR and goes through stretches where he is a solid hitter), but he still plays a stellar 3B - and with Peralta at SS, they need Inge's range.

I still would prefer Worth at SS, so long as he can hit his weight.

Guillen can't play DH without getting hurt. Rymes or Sizemore will play 2B.

It appears they are going after Vic Martinez to add some pop to their lineup, but we really don't need another guy whose best position is DH.