Brandon Inge’s Rare Feat

Brandon Inge has been a Detroit Tiger for life. The Tigers drafted Inge in 1998 and he made his major-league debut with the team three years later. Inge came up as a catcher but transitioned to third base in 2004, when Ivan Rodriguez landed in Detroit.

Inge’s defense at the hot corner has been consistently very good, according to UZR/150, aside from 2004, his first season there. And it was his defense that kept Inge in the Tigers lineup. Inge’s career slash is a paltry .235/.305/.388 with a career wOBA of .301 and wRC+ of 81.

This season, Inge couldn’t sustain even his low career offensive numbers. His defense suffered, as well. And so on July 20, the Tigers designated Inge for assignment. Most people, including manager Jim Leyland, thought it was the end of the road for the 34-year-old.

No other team showed interest. The Tigers still owed him about $7 million on the two-year/$11.5 million deal he signed before this season. Inge could have taken the money and gone home. But he didn’t.

Instead, Inge reported to the Toledo Mudhens, the Tigers’ AAA affiliate. In 29 games, Inge batted .287/.389/.519 and hit seven home runs. The Tigers recalled him in late August.

Inge has played in nine of the Tigers’ ten postseason games. In 18 at-bats through Thursday’s game, he’s hitting .333/.455/.556. In Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, Inge hit this game-tying home run off previously-unhittable Alexi Ogando in the seventh. Yes, the Tigers lost the game, but it wasn’t because of Inge. On Thursday, with the bases loaded and one out for the Rangers in the top of the sixth inning, Inge started the 5-3 double play to end the Rangers’ threat. The Tigers then scored four runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead 6-2. The Tigers won the game, sending the series back to Texas, in no small part due to the efforts of Inge.

Inge’s rare feat?

Based on my research, Inge appears to be the only player in the past 10 years with more than five years of major-league service who was designated for assignment, then was recalled by the major-league team that sent him down and then went on to play a significant role in the postseason.

Let me explain a bit about my research, because figuring this out wasn’t easy.

I researched box scores for every ALCS and NLCS game from the 2001 season through Tuesday night’s games. I then reviewed the transaction history of every player who started in at least two games in the LCS. O.K., not every player. I eliminated the guys I was certain hadn’t been designated for assignment or waived at any time in their careers.

I found no examples other than Inge.

There are some other good stories in the past 10 years of players who were designated for assignment, then were picked up by other teams and played a significant postseason role for their new teams.

Pat Burrell is a good example. Burrell played left field for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2000 to 2008, compiling a line of .257/.367/.485 with 253 home runs. He then signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2009 season. Things didn’t go well for Burrell in Tampa Bay, and the Rays released him in mid-May 2010. The San Francisco Giants signed Burrell and he played a key role in the Giants’ run to the NL West title. Burrell didn’t play particularly well in the postseason — but without his efforts from June through September — the Giants likely wouldn’t have been playing for, much less winning, the World Series.

Another is Bobby Kielty and the 2007 Red Sox. Kielty bounced around the American League from 2001 to 2007, playing for the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Oakland Athletics. The A’s released Kielty in July 2007 and the Red Sox picked him up. Kielty started two ALCS games for the Red Sox and batted .500/.571/.1000 in the postseason.

But Inge is special.

From what I’ve seen, no player in the past 10 years accomplished what Inge has accomplished with the Tigers in 2011. My research methodology wasn’t perfect, but I was so intrigued by Inge’s story that I was determined to try and figure out how rare it was.

Very rare, indeed.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


28 Responses to “Brandon Inge’s Rare Feat”

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  1. Yirmiyahu says:

    I’m impressed with the simple fact that Inge has kept a full-time 3B job for the past five years, despite putting up a .684 OPS over that time. You don’t often see that kind of sustained offensive mediocrity, especially all for the same team.

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    • SaberTJ says:

      This is a team that wanted to acquire Delmon Young.

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      • SiddFinch says:

        This is a team that did acquire Delmon Young.

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      • jake says:

        Acquiring Delmon seems to be working out okay in the playoffs. Not saying that it was a great trade, or that they should tender him this offseason, but he’s been okay this playoffs.

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      • Notrotographs says:

        This is a team that did acquire Delmon Young…..and hit him 3rd.

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      • Nathan says:

        jake, unfortunately, they almost definitely will tender him, and it’s hard to blame them, because they have done such an awful job drafting and developing position players that they have no better options that don’t involve throwing around more cash than they can feasibly sustain.

        Offensively, compared to Inge, Young is a freakin’ first ballot HOFer.

        I’m with Yirmiyahu — the only thing surprising about any of this is that Inge has managed to hold down a starting spot for a MLB club this long, especially with some of the shit he pulled when the team wanted to move him back to catcher and he acted like he was A-Rod.

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      • adohaj says:

        Even if Delmon does nothing but strike out the rest of the season the acquisition was a positive for the tigers. Considering they had to give up basically nothing for Delmon.

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      • JG says:

        Exactly. Lester Oliveros isn’t exactly a stud prospect, and I don’t even remember the other nobody they sent to Minnesota.

        And why shouldn’t he be tendered? He clearly still has a ton of talent and while he’ll probably never develop great discipline or be an average defender, he can still produce value with the bat through his undeniable raw power. This guy was a #1 overall pick once, and he’s, like, 26 now… It isn’t too late to turn him into a good ballplayer.

        Anyway, even if they’re looking at this in a saber light and see Delmon as an underachiever, the Tigers do like their reclamation projects, be they successful (Edwin Jackson) or not (Dontrelle).

        And to the guy who says Delmon will be back because the organization is so thin in OF, the only reason for this trade was because of Brennan Boesch’s thumb injury.

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      • Matt C says:

        What’s wrong with going after Delmon Young for peanuts? This is a guy that as little as 4 years ago was the number 1 rated prospect in baseball and as little as 3 years ago was traded for Matt Garza among others. He’s still in his prime and you need an OF so why not go after a guy like that considering he costs you nothing? It was a low risk high reward trade that I think was a great move. And considering their record since they got him and how far they’ve made it in the postseason I’d say it worked out.

        And yes I know that they may have been in this same spot with or without him but the fact is that we don’t know that, what we do know is that they were a couple games up in the division before they got him and now are in the ALCS, 2 games away from the World Series. Considering the injuries in their OF I think getting him for basically free was worth it. Now if they go and give him a huge long term contract I’ll be upset as a Tigers fan, but I don’t know how you could possibly criticize them for going after him. He was a former #1 prospect heading to the prime of his career, why wouldn’t you try to catch lighting in a bottle when it was costing you nothing?

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      • Jeff says:

        A lot of hate for a team in the ALCS… A team that beat the Yankees… A team that finished with 95 wins…

        For all the Tigers faults in how they build a team, they are pretty good and also set up to win for a few years…

        for the next 2 seasons they have all under contract: Miggy, Verlander, Vmart, Sherzer, Fister, Boesch, Porcello, Beniot, Peralta, Avila and Austin Jackson..

        Thats a pretty damn good core… replacing players like Guillen, Inge, and Maggs with cheaper younger players willalso help them improve..

        Sure they might spend alot, not get the greatest value, and not build the say SABR people say they should, but DD seems to get the job done…

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      • mscharer says:

        @SaberTJ…

        I always love/hate these kind of posts. There are 90 starting OF’s in MLB at a time. You have about 150 OF on a roster at any one time.

        Delmon Young is one of the best 90 OF available in MLB. He is definitely one of the best 150. While I suppose a team could only put 8 players in the field out of principle, most would choose to put a 9th man on the diamond…even if that 9th person isn’t the ideal person you want.

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    • LAA101010 says:

      Jeff Mathis says hello

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  2. Derek in The Rock says:

    It was a 5-3 double play.

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  3. mike Francesa says:

    I like Inge…I like Inge a lot

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  4. cttiger says:

    to all you delmon haters out there…this series is over with our delmon, who has returned to 2010 form…despite playing injured

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  5. The Nicker says:

    I’m really looking forward to Delmon Young maintaining his current approach next year in the regular season by swinging at every fastball he sees the entire year and bringing home a .248/.252/.690 slash line with 58 HRs.

    What is the greatest difference between OBP and SLG in a single season?

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Using the difference isn’t so exciting, because then the leaderboard is simply the greatest slugging seasons of all time: Bonds, Ruth, Sosa, Gehrig, etc. But if you look at SLG/OBP ratio, you end up with Matt Williams’ 1994 season: .267/.319/.607.

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      • The Nicker says:

        Yeah, I might jot a community post on this in the offseason, but there are only four seasons in baseball history in which a player has an ISO greater than his slugging percentage, and Matt Williams has two of them. Incredible.

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      • The Nicker says:

        Greater than his ON BASE PERCENTAGE, rather

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  6. LTG says:

    What about Brett Myers on the 2008 Phillies? He was sent down in the middle of the season to fix his fastball. He came back dominant in August and played a pivotal role in the Phillies once again overcoming a September deficit to the Mets. He only started 3 games in the postseason (1 in each series) but the Phillies won 2 of those 3 and he beat CC in the first one (in which he drew a huge walk from CC). He wasn’t stellar but he was solid enough for the then elite Phillies offense to get wins. It seems to me pitchers should not be discounted simply because they didn’t get two starts in any series. Did you mean to restrict the scope to hitters?

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    • Wendy Thurm says:

      Ah-ha! I thought someone would find another example. That’s why I explained the laborious research process and said “it appears Inge is the only one.” I didn’t intend to restrict to hitters only. Just missed the Myers example. Good catch.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Brett Myers wasn’t DFA’d or outrighted. He was simply optioned. There have to be ton of examples of prospecty types being optioned and then having an impact in the postseason.

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  7. Wendy Thurm says:

    I’m sure there are lots of prospects who were up and down and played a role in postseason. Jed Lowrie is one on 2008 Red Sox. That’s why I talked about players with at least 5 years of major league service who were DFA’d.

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  8. tcnjsteve says:

    Steve Trachsel was sent down by the Mets then came back to have a few ok years. He also pitched, albeit poorly, in in 2006 post-season.

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  9. Matty Brown says:

    MLB player who actually cares. That should be the title.

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