Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cabrera versus Inge

Now that the shocking Miguel Cabrera trade is starting to sink in, it's time to start analyzing just what the Tigers got. There is an obvious upgrade at third base (assuming that's where Cabrera will be playing) so a comparison between Cabrera and Brandon Inge is appropriate.

Table 1 compares the two offensively. Not surprisingly, Cabrera dominates Inge in every category including OPS (.966 versus .688), and Runs created per game (7.8 versus 4.0). Perhaps most telling is that Cabrera created 63 more runs than Inge (124 versus 61) over the course of the season. I consider wins to be a team statistic but 63 runs theoretically translates into almost 7 extra wins. There is no question that Cabrera will be a monumental boost to the line-up.

Table 1: Cabrera versus Inge offensively































Defensively, the story is different. Table 2 shows that Inge is a superior fielder to Cabrera by a wide margin. According to David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range, Inge converted 14% more plays into outs than Cabrera. Using Revised Zone Rating, Inge converted about 9% more plays into outs than Cabrera on balls in the third base zone. Inge also turned 13 more balls outside his zone into outs than Cabrera. According to the Fielding Bible Plus/Minus System, Inge converted 46 more plays into outs than Cabrera. Using the plus/minus number, we can estimate that Inge saved roughly 37 more runs than Cabrera. That is a very large difference and translates into almost 4 wins.

So theoretically, Cabrera is worth 3 more wins than Inge when looking at offense and defense combined. Again, I think it's tricky to translate an individual player's stats into wins because there are so many variables involved when you collapse individuals into teams. The point is that the defensive downgrade from Inge to Cabrera takes a large chunk out of the huge offensive upgrade.

There is some hope for Cabrera defensively. Looking at the Fan Fielding Survey, Marlins fans graded him below average overall mostly because of his range tools. conversely, they gave him a slightly above average grade for instincts and a very high grade for arm strength. The hope is that his off-season conditioning program will improve his range. Improved range combined with instincts and a great arm could make him a decent fielder. There is no guarantee that will happen though.

One thought is to keep Inge at third and put Cabrera in left field, a position he has played in the past, although not very successfully. It sounds like that is not going to happen which may mean that they think he'll put too much strain on his knees running around the outfield. I think it's likely that he'll end up playing first base or designated hitter later in his career but with Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield manning those positions, those are not options at the present time.

In the end, I still like the trade because the offensive upgrade is so large but Cabrera's defense is a significant problem. I also wonder if it's etched in stone that Cabrera will play third and if so how long he will last there.

Table 2: Cabrera versus Inge defensively in 2007
















Fan Fielding




  1. It's not a given that Inge is gone yet, I guess. However, he would a very expensive utility player. Clearly they will miss him on defense. But if Cabrera can get to league average on D we can show Inge the door no problem.

  2. That was my initial thought about the trade (defense will take a big hit), but wanted to hear your thoughts Lee. I also like the trade. Thanks.

  3. This is why i dislike sabermatics, we make up things and use crazy stats, so many stats to chose from its easy to pick one you want to use and use it to try to prove a point. Its very obvious that Miguel Cabrera is a huge upgrade over Inge. Inge's defense was overrated anyway. Your ratings dont take into account the fact that Cabrera is losing weight and getting in better shape. So he will be better this year than the past couple years defensively. Cabrera's offense is also a lot more consistent than Inge's defense.

  4. I was not picking and choosing stats to prove a point. I was simply making an unbiased comparison of Cabrera and Inge. I was actually surprised to find out how many more runs Inge saved on defense than Cabrera. I like the Cabrera trade and have no reason to try to make him look bad.

    Inge is not overrated on defense. Every defensive metric every year says that he is an excellent defender. The consensus of 50 very good Tigers fans who particpated in the Fan Fielding survey also agreed. He was a terrible hitter last year but his defense was great.

    I actually did mention in my article that Cabrera could improve next year with his weight loss. There is a good chance that he won't though. Until he does, I'm going to stick with past stats.

  5. Lee, this is why we love you.


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