It was in a fit of boosterism, some two years ago, when I took leave of my senses and banged out some tripe on this very blog about the bourgeoning third baseman of the Tigers, Brandon Inge.
I all but called him Mr. Tiger, declaring that he would never play for another big league team. Since his career would extend a dozen or so years in Detroit, why not go ahead and erect a statue of him in left center field at Comerica Park to join the other Tigers' greats in bronze?
Well, guess what? I stand by that boisterous tripe.
Inge, the catcher-turned-third baseman-turned-catcher-turned back into third sacker, is having a career year. He's about to obliterate his previous high in home runs (27 back in 2006) and has pumped his batting average above his norm, which means it no longer competes with his weight, but the weight of an NFL linebacker (.275 thru Wednesday).
The increased power and batting average, we're to presume, is a direct result of a new batting stance—something Inge worked on feverishly in the offseason, both with and without hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.The new stance—Inge stands straighter and points the barrel of the bat slightly toward the pitcher—hasn't done anything for his propensity to strike out. He's still fanning once every four at-bats, roughly. But he doesn't seem to be striking out in as many key situations.
In fact, Inge is becoming another kind of Mister, as in Mr. Clutch (with apologies to NBA star Jerry West).
Inge is, to me, the one Tiger I'd like to see at the plate in a late-inning, close game situation—with or without men on base. With his increased power (18 homers already), Inge places himself into scoring position simply by stepping into the batter's box.OK, but what's this jazz about erecting a statue?