Monday, February 02, 2009

Is Inge a Rally Killer?

My recent post on RBI percentage got a bit of attention from blogs and message boards, more than I usually get anyway. I should have known that any statistic which made Inge look good offensively would create a stir. Many were surprised that Inge finished third on the team and above league average by knocking in 18.3% of runners on base in his at bats last year. My initial reaction was that it was a fluke but I wanted to look back at other years to see if that was the case.

The Table below compares Brandon's RBI% to team and league averages from 2004-2008. This is the version which excludes plate appearances resulting in a walk, hit batsman or sacrifice bunt. As you can see, the Tigers third baseman finished comfortably better than league average every year from 2004-2008. I wouldn't go so far as to call him a clutch hitter but this puts a dent in the idea that he has been a rally killer over the past few years. This result is not something I expected so it probably warrants a closer look in the future.

As for the Tigers, they were well above average in 2004 , 2006 and 2007 but below average in 2005 and exactly average in 2008. It's not a big surprise that they were unproductive with runners on base in those two disappointing seasons.

Table 1 - Inge's RBI% in 2004-2008 (PA with BB, HBP, SAC excluded)




Lge Avg.





















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  2. This really is surprising to me, as I've seen more frustrating strikeouts than I can count, most notably when Mariano Rivera walked two batters to load the bases to get to Inge, and predictably, he struck out.

  3. OldEnglish is hinting around a good question. Is Inge all or nothing in RBI situations?

    I would say the impression of Inge as a rally killer could still be born out if we discover that he has a higher than usual strike out rate in RBI situations.

    He might drive in a higher percentage of the runners on base than other players but he might also make it less likely for the guy behind him in the order to do it by striking out. If he strikes out in RBI situations at the same rate as he does in all situations, then he's striking out between twice as often as he drives in runners or 50% more often. How that compares to league average, I don't know.

    Anybody have the time to check out that concept?

  4. There is no question that Inge strikes out too much and doesn't get on base enough. We don't need to do research to know that. He's not a good hitter. That is exactly the reason why his relatively high RBI percentage is surprising.

    For what it's worth, he strikes out 25% of the time with runners on base and 24.4% of the time with the bases empty.

  5. Inge is terrible! People want him to succeed because he is a white American born player. You can twist statistics to show anything you want them to. Inge would be an average utility player, he can play different positions but he is not a big league starter. The tigers will struggle if he is in the lineup.

  6. Joda, I don't twist statistics to make players look good or bad. I didn't start looking at RBI% with Inge in mind. I did it to present a new way at looking at RBI. I was as surprised as anyone to see him doing so well on the statistic. He is not a good hitter but maybe he hasn't hurt them as much as some say.

    I agree that his ideal role would be utility. However, the Tigers were hurt by their poor defense last year and their budget to fix it was limited. Thus, they ended up with two great defenders who can't hit at short and third. I believe that's going to help their pitching staff as much as it hurts the offense.

  7. Your analysis covered five full seasons, and so I would certainly guess that the following scenario would be consumed by the quantity, BUT, if you have the means to run these numbers....

    ....It's possible that a batter who hits low in the batting order (like Inge) could have an above average RBI/(Men On Base) ratio because they're hitting after the power hitters, and therefore they come to bat with runners on 2B and 3B more than the average hitter.

    So, I might guess that hitters in the #6 and #7 spots in the batting order MIGHT all have ratios similar to Inge's (that is, higher ratios than hitters in the other seven spots in the batting order.)

    (Conversely, a hitter in the #3 spot might often find themselves only with a man on first base.)

    Did I word that coherently? If so, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.

  8. David, Here are Inge's RBI percentages versus the AL average:

    2008 Inge 32.0 Lge 28.9
    2007 30.8 29.3
    2006 29.6 29.3
    2005 34.2 29.2
    2004 32.4 29.5


  9. Lee,

    Perhaps my post wasn't clear. Inge's personal numbers vs. the league average were in the original article.

    What I was hypothesizing was that perhaps the RBI% from the #6 and #7 spots in the order (where Inge usually bats, I believe), then they are in the other seven spots.

    Is that more clear?

  10. David, sorry I meant to say in the the previous post that those numbers were RBI% with runners in scoring position. Runners on first base were left out of that calculation. Does that answer your question?

  11. Lee/Tiger337:

    Yes, that does answer my question, at least as it relates to Inge.

    Based upon viewing the games, that's very surprising to me! But I guess we have to confidently say that Inge consistently performs better than average with RISP.




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