Brandon Inge has started the last two games with Neil Walker out. Brandon Inge also had a .190 average and a .464 OPS coming into tonight’s game. It’s not like there’s a lot of upside to be had there either. Inge had a combined .606 OPS in the last two years. He has strong defensive skills on the field, and that’s about the extent of his value. Well, unless you count his leadership skills.
At this point the biggest value Inge can bring to a team is his leadership. There has been a lot of talk about that this year. Brandon McCarthy said that Inge is worth 10 wins in the clubhouse prior to the season. McCarthy noted that if Inge and Jonny Gomes had been removed from the Oakland Athletics last year, the team might have gone from a 94 win team to a 70 win team. I’m skeptical about that. I’m not saying that leadership isn’t important, but I don’t think leadership takes a 70 win team to a 94 win team.
Of course Inge also had a .675 OPS with Oakland last year, so it was easier to keep his leadership on the bench. That’s not the case this year. He shouldn’t be starting two games in a row, or games in general. He also shouldn’t even be on the bench. The Pirates have options who could provide more value than Inge. Josh Harrison and Ivan De Jesus are better options. Neither of those guys are great options, or guys who will make a huge impact on the team. However, they are guys who are better than Inge, and that says a lot about how poor Inge has been.
But what about the loss in leadership? Josh Harrison might be hitting for a .347/.389/.636 line in Triple-A since the start of June, but can he wear cat-eye contacts in a game, or dress up in full hockey attire and skate around the clubhouse before a game? More seriously, how much would the Pirates lose if they cut Inge?
The Other Leaders
Looking at the Pirates roster, they have plenty of leaders. They have Russell Martin and Clint Barmes on offense. They have A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli from the pitching staff. It’s not like if Inge leaves the team there will be no more leaders.
When Will They Become Leaders?
One of the strange things about leadership is that it’s usually only mentioned when a player has nothing else to offer. You don’t really hear too much about Russell Martin’s leadership. You hear more about his hitting and throwing out runners and pitch framing abilities. It seems a lot of veteran players who are productive don’t get the leadership tag, and I wonder if that’s because “leadership” is so far down on the list of what they bring to the club.
Gaby Sanchez is a veteran, and we’ve seen his leadership ability already when he chewed out Starling Marte for a lack of hustle. Garrett Jones is a veteran. Then there’s the group of players who aren’t veterans, but also aren’t young players. And that brings up the next question and the next group…
Do They Need Leaders?
Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker have been in the league for a few years. They’re not veterans, but they’re not rookies. At some point they might be leaders, and they might even have some leadership abilities now. The question is, do these guys need a lot of leadership on the team to influence them? When I think about leadership, I think the guys affected are guys like Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer. You might add in Travis Snider or Jose Tabata, but I think they fall closer to this group than the Marte/Mercer group.
I don’t think Inge is impacting the performance of McCutchen, Alvarez, and Walker. And even if they do respond to leadership, they still have Martin and Barmes in the clubhouse.
The Majority of Young Players are Pitchers
If you look at the younger, more inexperienced players on the roster, most of them are pitchers. Jeff Locke is in his first full season as a starter. Gerrit Cole is a rookie. Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson are in their first full seasons in the majors. Then there are guys like Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro, and Jeanmar Gomez who fall into the “Do They Need Leaders?” category. I’m not sure that Inge has much impact on the pitchers. I’d think that the leadership impact here would come from Burnett, Grilli, and if any position player would impact them it would be Martin.
Who Needs Leadership?
The Pirates lineup isn’t old, but it’s not exactly young and inexperienced. Here are the usual starters, with thoughts on whether they need leadership.
Catcher – Russell Martin: He’s a leader.
First Base – Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez: Both could be considered leaders, and neither needs leadership.
Second Base – Neil Walker: Questionable that leadership would provide a big impact.
Shortstop – Jordy Mercer: Young, rookie, would benefit from veteran presence.
Third Base – Pedro Alvarez: See Neil Walker.
Left Field – Starling Marte: Like Mercer, would benefit from veteran presence.
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen: Same as Walker and Alvarez.
Right Field: Jose Tabata/Travis Snider: Kind of in between the “McCutchen/Alvarez/Walker” group and the “Marte/Mercer” group, although part of that might be a perception that is based on neither player performing well.
The Pirates don’t have a lot of positions where they need leadership. When you consider that Clint Barmes and Russell Martin are providing leadership, then the value Inge brings is diminished. If you add Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones to the group of leaders, the value goes down. If you consider that McCutchen, Alvarez, and Walker probably don’t need a ton of leadership, then the remaining value becomes a little less valuable. Really there are two guys on the team who could benefit from veteran leadership: Mercer and Marte. Even without Inge, those guys would have plenty of leaders to turn to, or plenty of leaders who would be willing to turn to them when those leaders see something wrong.
In short, Brandon Inge might be a leader, but his leadership has little value on this team, much like his lack of offense and his defense off the bench.
Links and Notes
**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 12: Prospect Analysis on Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Tyler Glasnow. Also includes an interview with 2013 first round pick Reese McGuire.
**The newest episode of the Pirates Roundtable is up. This week we had Jim Rosati from North Side Notch, Ed Giles from In Clemente Weather, and David Manel of Bucs Dugout stopped by.