Brandon Inge or Danny Worth: Which makes more sense as a backup?

Who would you rather have: Danny Worth or Brandon Inge?

As with any topic that involves Inge, I suspect a lot of people snapped right to a judgment on that question.

"ANYONE BUT INGE!!!"

But is it really that simple?

Lynn Henning asked and answered the Worth or Inge dilemma at the Detroit News. While money may play a part of it - Inge is owed $5.5 million and will likely be given every opportunity to earn it during spring training - a key factor is versatility. Worth has it; Inge does not.

Henning writes:

For all his flexibility, Inge offers value only as a third baseman. And that value isn't what it once was due to his age and relative decline in defensive skills. In short, he isn't the One Man Infield Left Side he was five years ago.

Here, Worth has a significant edge. He can play third base almost as well as he plays shortstop and second base, which is very well indeed.

Inge, the king of making outs, does have an ace up his sleeve with his past history of power. He showed that in force during the first half of 2009. It has been missing since. Worth will never be confused with a hitter, let alone a guy who can hit 15 or 20 home runs. So it seems fair to give Inge anywhere from a slight edge here to a bit bigger advantage.

However, as Henning pointed out, Inge is not the same player he used to be. You don't need me to make a fancy graph to show you the direction Inge's defense has gone: down. The slick-fielding, should-have-won-a-Gold-Glove fielder from six seasons ago just hasn't returned to being the player he was before the knee problems of late 2009. So Inge's best selling point - his defense - is quickly moving toward "average."

Brandon Inge's UZR/150 and DRS (defensive runs saved)

Year

UZR/150

DRS

2006

15.2

21

2007

10.0

17

2008

6.2

1

2009

6.9

10

2010

3.5

1

2011

3.3

-1

Source: Fangraphs

Worth's versatility replacing Inge's could be a good thing for the Tigers. At least, in an ideal world. Ideally, Ramon Santiago and Worth would hold down second base, while Ryan Raburn would sell all his infield gloves for charity and bide most of his time in left field. Meanwhile, Delmon Young would come as close as the Tigers get to a regular DH, because nobody, I mean nobody, wants to see him playing defense on a regular basis. Worth could also be used to spell Jhonny Peralta or Miguel Cabrera at third.

(And hey, while we're at it, if Cabrera plays acceptable at third base maybe we could find a way to replace Don Kelly with Andy Dirks. I haven't thought everything through yet or drawn up a depth chart to see just how far we can take things.)

I really hope the Tigers leave this question open to be answered in spring training. Some of it will be up to Cabrera. Some might be up to Worth. But Inge's own play this spring is going to go a long way to figuring out the answer to the Worth-or-Inge question.

How do you think it will turn out?

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