Saturday, August 20, 2011

Inge Up, Dirks Down

As many Tigers fans guessed/hoped/feared, third baseman Brandon Inge is coming back to Detroit.  The Tigers announced tonight that Inge is being added to the roster and that outfielder Andy Dirks is being optioned to Toledo.  Manager Jim Leyland revealed that Inge will start against left-handed pitchers and be a defensive replacement for recently acquired Wilson Betemit.

Inge was having a miserable season for the Tigers at the time of his demotion.  He was batting .177 with a .483 OPS and his defense had declined to the point where he was no better than average at third base.  However, he responded well to his trip to Toledo batting .287/.389/.519 with seven homers in 126 plate appearances.

Betemit has a big platoon split this year - .841 OPS versus RHP and .622 versus LHP - so platooning makes sense.  Inge has a history of hitting left-handed pitchers, but this year has a paltry .560 OPS against them..  Hence, he's not the best platoon partner unless he solved his hitting problems in Triple-A.  That doesn't seem likely though given his abysmal hitting performance in Detroit earlier this year.             

I think the real motivation behind recalling Inge is defense.  On a team with three predominantly ground ball pitchers - Doug Fister, Brad Penny and Rick Porcello - infield defense is very important.  The Tigers infield defense is awful right now, so they could use all the help they can get.  Inge is not the fielder he once was, but he's better than Betemit.  And Roman Santiago also gives them a defensive boost when he fills in for Ryan Raburn. 

Some Tigers fans are complaining about the demotion of Dirks, but there is not such a need for him with the acquisition of Delmon Young.  One could certainly make a case that Dirks is more useful off the bench than Magglio Ordonez, but Dirks will probably be better off getting regular at bats with the MudHens.   

Because Inge is such a polarizing player in Detroit, this move is already creating a controversy among Tigers fans.  However, it's really not a big deal.  It's simply a matter of substituting one bench player at a position of need for another at position where there is less of a need. 

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