We're continuing our previewing of the Detroit Tigers player by player. Expect much of the bullpen and the bench players to be doubled up a bit during the final week before the season, but we'll go one a day until then, by uniform numbers. I reserve the right to go out of order either on purpose or by accident.
Brandon Inge #15
I know. You're thinking "I thought you said only players who are for sure going to make the team will be included." Yeah, I did. I think it's a safe bet Inge has a spot on the team. Will he end up starting at second base? Will that be Ryan Raburn? What about Ramon Santiago? I do not know. I edge toward Raburn being the Opening Day starter, but I think they'll all get a fair amount of time at the position.
That said, so many words have already been spilled on Inge I'm not going to add a whole lot more. Surely most peole have already formed an opinion on him. We can all agree he's not going to suddenly turn into a .300 hitter. Or a .250 hitter. But I think the question is, can he bat .225 or is he forever doomed to the Mendoza line?
Inge could rebound slightly from a putrid 2011. Last season, he got unlucky even by Inge standards. After returning from his minors trip, he actually put up an OPS above .800 during the final month of the season. His spring line of .240 / .296 / .440 line would be acceptable in the regular season. However, I hesitate to predict numbers that high. I don't rule a .225 average, but it could vary by a few points on either side. I do think we'll see a slight uptick in power -- his 2011 numbers were quite a bit below the arc you would expect for a player hanging around the .150-.170 range the prior few years. So I'll just predict a line that looks like .225 average, .300 on-base percentage and .365 slugging. Not great. Not good, really. But an improvement.
Fielding-wise, I think he'll take fine to second base. I think we've already seen that.
Best case, Inge finds some power, doesn't face a lot of right-handed pitching and never comes up with two outs in the ninth inning. Yet ultimately, Inge will be the same frustrating, divisive player as always. Expect nothing less. Fortunately he's in the last year of his contract and cutting ties with him if he's performing worse than those already-modest expectations, releasing him from the rest of his contract wouldn't be the hardest thing in the world for the Tigers to do.