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This week’s TYA Mailbag question come compliments of TYA reader, Alex. Alex actually submitted two excellent questions, but I figured I’d address each separately. That way I could thoroughly address both points.
Question : [Brandon Inge] Is he anything worth going after? I know he seems to have left his bat in the bat rack, but I think I’d rather have him than Nunez at 3rd.
Great question, Alex. My gut reaction when I initially read your question was that acquiring Brandon was probably not worth it. But let’s take a look regardless.
I can certainly understand how a guy like Inge could draw some interest based on prior performance. I remember his 2004 campaign which involved him posting a .287/.340/.453 line with 13 homeruns. Then, of course, in 2006 — when he accumulated a 5.8 bWAR — he displayed some serious power, thanks in part, to his 27 homeruns (a HR total which he repeated again in 2009).
That doesn’t include the other half of the equation either. Obviously, much of the appeal surrounding Inge stems from his historically consistant defense — a point I find especially remarkable since he initially played the Catcher position which is completely different than third. For a while, it seemed as though the only third baseman in Inge’s defensive class was Adrian Beltre and that certainly speaks volumes to his credit.
This year however, Inge has batted a meager .177/.242/.483 (.223 wOBA) triple slash for the Tigers over the course of 239 plate appearances — warranting a not-so-remarkable -1.2 bWAR, which consequently was his first negative rating since 2002 – with only one homerun. His diminished power numbers are only further highlighted by an abysmally low ISO rating of .065. To say that he “left his bat on the bat rack” is honestly an understatement in my opinion; he might as well be swinging at the ball with one of those floaty pool noodles. To elaborate a bit further, I’d recommend one quickly consider Inge’s vomit-inducing 33 wRC+*. There’s a very real reason why he was designated for assignment, and replaced by the likes of Wilson Betemit.
*wRC+ = Runs per plate appearance where 100 is average; both league and park adjusted; based on wOBA.
For what it’s worth though, Brandon has suffered this season from an unusually low BABIP (.237 against a career .282). Even if B-Inge were to turn his offense around though, he’s still always been somewhat prone to the strike out (career 22.9 SO% / 25.1% in 2011), and he has never been particularly efficient at drawing a walk either (career 8 BB% / 7.1% in 2011) — two qualities that are definitely contrary to the Yankees offensive mantra. More importantly, there just isn’t a whole lot of indication that he’s poised for any substantial kind of bounce back (according to the various projection systems).
Let’s shift the discussion back towards E-Nuney (What do you think folks? Does it work?) and the hellacious spectacle that is his defense so we can address the latter portion of Alex’s question. Would Inge (even after having his eyes gouged out) be better defensively? Most likely (assuming he’s healthy, which has been a problem for Brandon over the past few seasons). Would he be better overall than Nunez? At this point, I’m not so sure about that.
Remember the reason why Nunez is playing nearly every day. His job is to fill in for A-Rod during his stint on the disabled list. Would the defensive upgrade be so tangible that it offsets the non-existent offense of Inge? According to WAR, it definitely doesn’t — he’s really been that bad with the bat this year. Nunez, on the other hand, has largely contributed in a positive way offensively (.272/.317/.396) through 185 plate appearances. It’s only his defense that makes us cringe — he ends up netting out as a replacement level player which for all intents and purposes, is exactly what was expected to be. Either way, you’re getting a player with real flaws out there. I’d just assume take the offense, youth, and durability.
Perhaps the one point that could have worked in Inge’s favor is that he’d be dirt cheap. Other than the pro-rated amount of a league minimum salary that would have been owed by the Yankees, the Tigers are on the hook for the remainder of the $5.5M owed to Brandon this season. This isn’t really much of a factor in this instance however, as Nunez is just as cost effective.
So, at this juncture, my general inclination towards Inge is that that ship has already sailed.
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