How will Brandon Inge fare as a catcher?

After yesterday’s Tigersfest it is looking more and more like Brandon Inge will be with the ballclub for the 2008 season. This isn’t surprising at this point since his high salary and low OPS last year has made a trade difficult. There has also been absolute silence on the trade front for the past few weeks which spoke volumes to their success to trade him. One can only assume that most trade conversations included some salary provisions but other issues are that Inge doesn’t place well as a third baseman in any league. The teams failure to grant his wishes and trade him does leave is a big question as to what role Inge will play for 2008 since Jim Leyland has made it very clear that Miguel Cabrerra will be fielding third base.

While, according to Jon Paul Morosi of the Free Press, Dombroski has said that it is still up in the air he did also state the preference of placing him back behind the dish:

“If I were Brandon Inge’s best friend, I’d tell him, ‘You should catch,’ ” Dombrowski said. “This guy could be an All-Star catcher. He’s not only good defensively, but his offense takes on a different meaning. … If he puts (last year’s) numbers up catching, he might be an All-Star. But you also realize that guys have to do what they want to do.”

The last sentence somewhat surprised me and got me thinking. If you compare Brandon Inge’s stats from last year, Dombrowski is saying, then Inge might be an All Star. This we can take a bit of a look into as we do have some numbers that will help us out here. Below we will take a look at how Brandon Inge fared as against the rest of the American League catchers as well as a quick flash back to how Inge was as a catcher.

Brandon Inge’s batting statistics last year were not good. Not good by almost any measure and an unexpected dip in both average and power from the 2006 season made pre-season extension and salary (4 years, $24M) look not so good.

Player AB R H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS+
Brandon Inge 508 64 120 25 2 14 .236 .312 .376 80

I’m a big a fan of OPS+ which compares a players batting against the rest of the league. This provides you with a stat that allows you to quickly understand whether a player is above or below average in the league (over 100 is above average and under 100 is below average.) Using this same concept you could also quickly understand how a player fares against other players at a particular position.

By using the same formula, while substituting lgOBP and lgSLG with the OBP and SLG of catchers in the American League, we can see how Brandon Inge stacks up. (Keep in mind that while OPS+ is adjusted for park factors, my numbers are not.)

Rank Player Team OPS+ pos-OPS+
1 Jorge Posada NYY 154 173
2 Victor Martinez CLE 127 147
3 Joe Mauer MIN 117 129
………
11 Ivan Rodriguez DET 85 100
………
13 Brandon Inge DET 80 94

So while Brandon clearly fares better against the crop of American League than he does against all AL hitters he is still below average. (His pos-OPS comparing him against third basemen is 78.) Good thing for Inge, being an All-Star isn’t all about how you do at the plate since the AL starting catcher slot was filled by Ivan Rodriguez. I-Rod was clearly not the best hitter and was average in OPS amongst all AL catchers. The backup catchers for the All-Star game were Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez (Respectively 1, 2 in the pos-OPS list.)

How good is Brandon at catching? It’s hard to say for sure since he hasn’t been behind the dish since 2004 but he did put in a few years behind the plate that we can take a look at. Here are his catcher related stats:

Year PA SB CS PB CS% PB per 1000 PA
2001 2392 30 25 10 45.45% 4.18
2002 3582 44 17 10 27.87% 2.79
2003 3845 70 40 5 36.36% 1.30
2004 1371 30 21 3 41.18% 2.19
Totals 11190 174 103 28 37.18% 2.50

Last year Mike Rabelo, who played the role of backup catcher, caught 27.78% of steal attempts and had 1.71 PB per 1000 PAs. Pudge, who had a down year all around 2007, caught 30.88% of steal attempts and had 1.53 PB per 1000 PAs. Brandon doesn’t have bad stats as a catcher, actually rather average. Whether he can step right back in remains to be seen but Dave Dombrowski seems to think he will. With the lack of real strong catching prospects and a large need on the horizon it makes great sense that Dave hopes to see Brandon step up into this position. It will help justify his salary or provide another position in which other teams might look to fill a role.

As a fan I like to see Brandon return though that feeling is lessened a bit without a chance of his spectacular plays at third. If he wants to fill the existing need behind the plate and can then that would be the best situation though it likely won’t be as an All-Star.

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3 Responses to How will Brandon Inge fare as a catcher?

  1. Blake says:

    I share your love of OPS+, it’s terrific. I was surprised by that statement as well. However if he can get back to his 2006 numbers and you couple that with playing for a popular (winning) team, he could probably get in there.

  2. WARD says:

    I SEE DETROIT WINING 110 GAMES THIS YEAR.

  3. Eric Jackson says:

    I’d love to see that. Might be a bit much though :) We’ll see soon how good they’ll be though with many of the toughest challenges coming in the first half of the season.

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