Brandon Inge – 2007 Fleer Ultra

February 10, 2011

He’s An Infielder, He’s A Catcher, No…

He’s an infielder.


Baseball teams are their own worst enemies at times.

It’s no secret why the majority of players drafted in high rounds were pitchers, catchers, shortstops, and center fielders at some point in their amateur career. And then, of course, most of them are converted somewhere quickly before they do too much damage to themselves or others around them. When you hear of a prospect moving to first or left field in A ball, that means “he can hit but I can’t play him anywhere without killing someone.”

Or, because they have a ‘need’ and they try to force a player to fit the need. Take Mr. Inge.

At VCU, he was a shortstop and relief pitcher. OK, he’s probably not a pro-caliber shortstop, and has a good arm. Why not try him at…well..third base?

But the Tigers saw something in 1998, and so after they drafted and signed Inge they moved him to catcher. Yes, their catcher was Paul Bako in 1998, but their third baseman was Joe Randa, and you know, no sense in moving a guy to catcher so you can keep Joe Randa happy. (Yes, I know the Tigers soon got Dean Palmer, but the message is the same.)

Usually, players learning to catch in the minors don’t take to it all the way and are hitters first and catchers second. But Inge was different – he really became a stellar catcher. Andy Etchebarren called him one of the best catchers in the AL, and they eyebrows know catching!

But catching really took a toll on his offense. He hit .230 in 1998, .244 in 1999 in A-ball, and hit .244 in AA-AAA in 2000. Each time, he had some pop, but no real power numbers.

The Tigers promoted him to the bigs to start 2001, and he spent most of the time up in the majors from 2001-03, though he did make month-long sojourns back to Toledo in each of those years. In 2001, Inge backed up Robert Fick. The Tigers went 66-96, and Inge hit a buck-eighty with no homers and an OPS+ of 24.

In 2002, Inge was the ‘regular’ catcher for a 55-106 team. Well, he got more playing time than Mike Rivera or Matt Walkbeck at least.  He hit .202 with an OPS+ of 64.

In 2003, you recall that was the year the Tigers cratered at 43 wins. Inge was the regular catcher, hitting .203 with an OPS+ of 64 again. Again, his backup was Matt Walbeck, who had a lovely OPS+ of 18 to go with his 44 in 2002. (And you wonder why the Tigers were so horrid?)

So then they got I-Rod to catch, and Inge moved to third, where for the most part he’s been happy and semi-quasi-productive. Well, except for 2008, where he caught and played center and third. That’s a player combo straight from the King Kelly school.

Should the Tigers have made Inge a 3B all along?

Probably. But they didn’t, and it took them three MLB years to figure that out.

One Response to “Brandon Inge – 2007 Fleer Ultra”

  1. […] wasn’t a great defensive catcher. But unlike Brandon Inge, he was a catcher in college. And while Pagnozzi was a good (but not great) defensive catcher, he […]

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