Sunday, April 27, 2008

The best on the bench

Jim Leyland said yesterday Brandon Inge might be the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball. Yet, if Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield are healthy, Inge is on the bench. That's because Guillen will be playing 3B and Sheff will have the DH spot.

Perhaps Leyland is talking up Inge so the Tigers can trade him. But the Tigers have made a mess of the situation surrounding Inge, 3B, Guillen and Miguel Cabrera. No doubt Guillen and Cabrera are superior offensive players. However, in Sports Illustrated's baseball preview, the folks at Baseball Prospectus determined Detroit would be better with Inge at 3B and Cabrera in LF because Inge's defense was so good it made up for his offensive shortcomings.

This season, Inge is playing like he's got something to prove. He's batting .268/.379/.465 and his OPS+ is 128. He's got 3 HR, 14 RBI and 10 R, primarily from the No. 9 spot in the lineup. His .844 OPS is right below Cabrera's .856 and ranks 24th among all AL hitters. Guillen is second at .999, thus the complications. I can't find data on win shares for 2008, but would guess Inge's defense would place him slightly ahead of Cabrera at this point.

I guess this is ultimately a good problem to have. Maybe Brandon can pitch?

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