Brandon Inge’s first two weeks (or: where is Travis Snider?)

Couldn't watch yesterday's game due to blackout, so I'm not going to write anything up. Looked ugly. Instead, let's talk about something else. 

When the Pirates signed Brandon Inge this winter, the idea was that he'd essentially take Josh Harrison's role on the club; pinch-hitter, utility infielder, maybe spell Pedro Alvarez against tough lefties, etc. I wasn't particularly happy with the signing, but there are worse 25th men in the league than Brandon Inge and as it stands, getting upset over the 25th man on the roster is generally a futile thing to do. Brandon Inge came back from the disabled list on April 23rd. Here are some numbers.

The Pirates have played 12 games since April 23rd. Brandon Inge has appeared in all of them. He's made nine starts in those 12 games. Only one of those starts (his first) has been in his nominal role of third baseman. Six starts came at second base for Neil Walker while the Pirates were refusing to put Walker on the disabled list and call Jordy Mercer up for reasons that are completely unknown to anyone. The Pirates claimed that they thought Walker would be ready in a week, but the man had his hand slashed open badly enough to require stitches. The last two of those starts have come in right field for Travis Snider. Snider has been more or less unavailable with "tightness in his side" since April 26th. The only news I can find about Snider's injury is Snider saying that he's ready to play, which he's been saying since April 30th. He's started one game since April 30th, pinch hit once, and been double-switched in three other times. 

Of Inge's nine starts, five have come against right-handed pitching. Inge's career OPS against righties is .652. Last year his OPS against righties was .636. Total this year, Inge is hitting .294/.314/.353. That's about as empty and terrible as a .292 average gets. Inge's BABIP is .385, so he's not going to get any better. 

You can say that the only reason that Inge is playing is because of Walker and Snider's injuries, but honestly, unless someone says something concrete about Snider's injury, it seems like it's being milked for the single purpose of getting Inge more playing time. The same goes for Walker being left on the roster; he wasn't put on the DL because Inge was on the roster. So what happens when Snider finally does whatever he needs to do to be put back into the lineup on a regular basis? Inge will start taking at-bats from Pedro Alvarez.  

Brandon Inge is fine as a 25th man on the roster. Brandon Inge is thus far being used as the first man off of the bench, essentially as a starter that is someone that the team has to find playing time for even if he doesn't have a position. This seems like a minor point after 12 games, but it drives me nuts in the same way that severe misuse of the bullpen drives everyone nuts. Bunting and hit and runs and batting orders and baserunning and all of the small things that a manager gets blamed for are relatively small and unimportant in the grand scheme of a full season for a baseball team. So long as the team puts their best players on the field every night, most of those small things don't matter much. Brandon Inge is not one of the Pirates best players. When he's in the field at anywhere but third base, he's a defensive liability. When he's batting against right-handed pitching, he's an offensive liablity. Through 12 games, he's spent more time away from third base than at it and he's faced more right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching. This is a very bad trend. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.