First Pitch: Brandon Inge is a Leader, But the Pirates Have Different Needs

Brandon Inge

Brandon Inge doesn’t have much value outside of his leadership, and the Pirates don’t need his leadership. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

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.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.

Prospects

**Pirates Have Three in Baseball America’s Mid-Season Top 50.

**Pirates Sign 7th Round Pick Buddy Borden.

**Baseball America Names Pirates as One of Five Organizations on a Roll.

**Top Performers: Harold Ramirez Is on Fire; Reese McGuire Has Strong Debut.

**Top Performers: Is Stolmy Pimentel Starting Pitching Depth For the Pirates?

**Prospect Watch: Rodriguez and Sanchez Pitch Well, Indianapolis Wins In Extras.

**Minor League Schedule: Glasnow Takes The Hill Tonight.

**Minor Moves: d’Arnaud to the Triple-A DL, Sands Activated for Indianapolis.

Pirates

**Pirates Playoff Odds Fall to 86 Percent After Two Series Losses.

**Pirates Strand 10 Runners in Third Straight Loss, End Locke’s Unbeaten Streak.

**Pirates Notebook: A’s Speak Highly of Inge, Alvarez Not in Derby.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • BostonsCommon

    Ziing!! Get this guy off the team and bring in someone who can hit. I mean who do they think this guy is, Rob Scuderi?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I read somewhere that Liriano is great with the young Latins. So there’s that, too.
    .
    Foo

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.martin.9003 Bob Martin

    If they need Inge in the clubhouse so bad, just give him a job like collecting the towels. He shouldn’t be playing anymore.

  • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

    When playing Barmes over Inge would improve you defensively AND offensively, then you know it’s time for Inge to be DFA’d. The Pirates don’t need cheerleaders–they need hitting.

  • jon6er

    Find it very strange your statement “Looking at the Pirates roster, they have plenty of leaders. They have Russell Martin and Clint Barmes on offense”. Clint Barmes lost his starting job because of his offense.

  • jon6er

    Another thing is Hurdle seems like the type of person who purposely goes against the majority opinion. If everyone doesn’t want Cr-Inge, he will keep him. Hurdle is beginning to sound like the type of person who can’t say to someone “that is a great idea” because if he didn’t think of it first.

  • impliedi

    Good article, Tim. But, I think there are other important things keeping Inge on the team (whether we agree with them or not).

    Manager’s trust: It might be as silly of a concept as “leadership”, but people rarely talk about the manager’s trust in veteran over a young guy. As you alluded to, Harrison and De Jesus offer only the slim chance of a minor upgrade over Inge. If one of those guys were tearing up the minor leagues in either hitting or defense, it would be easier to convince Hurdle to go with them. We saw it this year with Mercer. He had to earn his manager’s trust, show that he could be consistent and was moved into the starting job at short. If I’m a manager, I want to have as many known quantities on my team as I can, especially in my role players. Sometimes that means having a less productive on the team. If I’m going to carry and go to a question mark, the guy better have tremendous potential. Neither Harrison nor De Jesus has that. So, I’m thinking Hurdle would rather have a guy that he knows what he’s going to get, rather than the possibility of a small upgrade.

    And secondly, Inge starting is a huge indicator of the glaring organizational hole at 2B in the upper levels. I’m guessing that if Chase d’Arnaud were healthy, he’d be starting in Walker’s absence.

    • Kevin_Young

      ” If one of those guys were tearing up the minor leagues in either hitting or defense, it would be easier to convince Hurdle to go with them.”…….Right, they’re both tearing up the minor leagues.
      2013 AAA numbers:
      Inge -150/320/283
      DeJesus- 327/383/478
      Harrison- 317/373/507

      • quikclipze

        -I logged in to say the same exact thing and you beat me to it, Kevin.

        –“I want to have as many known quantities on my team as I can, especially in my role players. Sometimes that means having a less productive on the team”

        -I’m glad that you aren’t the Pirates manager.

        -“I’m guessing that if Chase d’Arnaud were healthy, he’d be starting in Walker’s absence.”

        -Chase d’Arnaud is not a good player. People need to realize this. He’s a bad fielder; his ~.950 SS Fielding % over the past 2 seasons would be the worst in MLB among all qualified SS. He’s a career .254 hitter at AAA with a poor OPS of .713. He’s clearly hit a wall at AAA, I have no clue why people keep pining for him to be recalled.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

        When are people going to realize Josh Harrison is nothing but a AAA player. He will never come close to those numbers in the majors. I would give DeJesus a shot before Harrison again.

    • moose7195

      I’m sorry, but if I’m manager. I would think that playing a guy whose known quality is no offense and okay defense, would eventually land me in the unemployment line. Having a “question mark” on the team is acceptable, and actually desired, when he hits better than the .190 that Inge is putting up

  • Monkshot

    I played organized baseball and I can promise you leadership is not what it’s cracked up to be. Not only that, but there is no way for us to know who the leaders are unless we were in the clubhouse behind closed doors. In my experiences a guy like Inge keeps the locker room loose but isn’t necessarily a leader. We cannot continue running him out there when the offense is struggling like this. It’s like having 2 pitchers in the lineup.

  • Monkshot

    Also, Barmes added a leg kick to his stance. It seems to have helped his timing, last night was the best he has looked in maybe 4 years. I think we will be seeing a lot more of him with Walker out.

    • buster09

      Monkshot : Good observation . I noticed that about Barmes and thought he had better swings than most I have seen from him over his time there. I can’t imagine why Hurdle doesn’t get Mercer in at 2nd and let Barmes out there while Walker is out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      I like this. Why start Inge when even Barmes is better with the bat, put Barmes at short and play Mercer at 2nd.

  • moose7195

    Good Article. I’ve been saying for weeks now that Inge basically adds nothing to this team. I mean that if you are going to keep Barmes, who is a black hole where offense goes to die, then why is Inge here if he can’t be better defensively than Barmes. I have similar feelings about McKenry, as in “What value does McKenry have, at all?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

      Do you expect a backup catcher to be able to hit or throw runners out? Psh *sarcasm*

  • leadoff

    I think leadership is fine, but it is totally meaningless when you cross the white lines, your on your own, period, if you never played the game you would not understand this, if you had you will. There are plenty of guys in the dugout to tell your problems to when things don’t go well, but that is after things don’t go well.
    The Pirate offense has been a problem most of this year and it may be time to quit waiting on players to do their jobs correctly. The RISP problem has not gone away, most of the problem is with the hitters approach to different situations, that can be coaching or bad hitters in the clutch. They don’t have one hitter on the roster that you would be glad to have at the plate with a man on third and no outs or one out.
    Inge is just one of the offense woes that they have, Lyle Overbay is more productive in various ways for the Yankees than Jones, Tabata, Sanchez, Inge, Walker, McHenry, Barmes and Snider and we got rid of him.
    I don’t think a single bat is what the Pirates need, I think they need to upgrade their offense in a lot of areas with players that hit with better approaches and not necessarily better batting averages.
    It seems such a shame to waste the great pitching they are getting.
    As far as Harrison and DeJesus are concerned, the upgrade would be much more than marginal, both of these guys are very good ball players, both never got the chance at one position for any length of time in the majors. There is no way on earth than either one of them would not be a huge upgrade over Inge.
    Lambo would have to be an upgrade over Snider, Snider hit around 300 in April and tapered off each month and now is hitting at about a .150 pace.

  • smurph

    I am a born leader. And I have a good knowledge of baseball. I would be happy to assume Inge’s leadership role. I probably couldn’t match his .180 BA. I would probably only hit .150 or .160. But I would do it for less than the 1+ million they are paying him. Leadership? Come on Hurdle. Get some baseball players.

  • leadoff

    Saying Inge is worth 10 wins, is not exactly a vote of confidence for the guys that actually did get them into the playoffs, kind of like saying you did a great job of hitting that home run, but you never would have hit it if I did not dress up like a hockey player. The only way he could have been worth 10 wins is if he actually did something on the field and even then, it usually takes all 9 in a game.

    • emjayinTN

      Inge did play better in Oakland than he had in Detroit and when the Tigers outed him, the light went off in his head that he would be out of baseball and playing church softball if he did not show something. At Oakland, expectations were low and he batted 300 times and got 13 doubles, 11 HR’s, and 52 RBI’s. That got him the contract with the Pirates. He had a great start and then nothing. About 6 or 7 games ago he had a nice day in Seattle and again, nothing since. But, just like with Snider, he is just one of the guys who is not hitting. The Pirates are having a hard time scoring runs and where they were getting out in front in games, they are now putting up a lot of ZEROES until they fall behind. We may have to go to a small ball approach and see if we can get a run early so that our pitchers can pitch with confidence. Alvarez does an Ole on missing the tag on Lowrie and then he scores, and ‘Cutch gets robbed on a ball that would have put the Bucs ahead in the 7th – great diving catch by Covelli. When it is going bad, crap happens. Someone just tell me why Inge is in the lineup – where is Neil Walker? Only around 125 games last year, and this year he is on a similar pace – I tuned in to hear a result of the MRI, but then I heard that he decided not to have an MRI?

  • smurph

    I’m not going to look it up, but I’ll bet the farm there is not another ML team that has 3 bench players hitting under .210, two of them under .200. This on a contending team?

    • stickyweb

      You don’t have to look too far. I picked the Cardinals to check first since all the naysayers think they’ll win the division and the pennant, so it’d be interesting to see how far behind the Bucs are.

      Lo and behold, their bench has Ty Wiggington at .158/.238/.193, Tony Cruz at .171/.209/.220 and Shane Robinson at .226/.354/.339 (at least he walks a ton, but I always chuckle when the slugging is less than the on base %)

      Anywho, I won’t check the other 28 teams but I’ll assume the 2 best teams in baseball aren’t the extreme exceptions. Yes the Fort has been disappointing but back up catchers are back ups for a reason. If they could hit and play great defense, they’d be starting somewhere. Just be thankful we have Sanchez to come up if anything (God forbid) happens to Martin.

      They need Barmes because nobody else plays SS (unless you want to trust Mercer as the starter and Harrison as the back up…I doubt anyone is comfortable with that).

      I’d say the other 2 spots on the bench (either Gaby, Snider, Tabby or Garrett) are the real problem. Jones is the only one that plays more than 1 position, so there’s no flexibility. And none of them are producing off the bench, yet it’s probably too early to cut bait with the first 2 and the latter 2 have produced some results in the past plus there’s Tabby’s contract, so are you going to cut any of them?

      In summary (I know, it’s too late for that now), I think it’s highly debatable that Harrison or DeJesus provides much over Inge on the field and maybe we should just take some of these former teammates at their word. You can always say something nice about anybody, but these guys are downright effusive, so maybe there’s actually something to it. It’s laughable that one guy’s intangibles resulted in 10 additional wins, even more laughable that 2 guys accounted for 24 additional wins. But maybe it’s just as laughable that a 2 – 5 stretch of the schedule should outweigh the entire first half of the season. The Bucs defintiely had something going in the first half, let’s at least give tem until the AS break before making changes for change’s sake.

  • Monkshot

    I agree Buster09 and I believe Hurdle will have Mercer at 2nd with Barmes at short tonight.

    I guessing if Walker goes on the DL the FO brings up Harrison. The FO knows what he gives you and still has 2? options left. I would hope DeJesus would get a look but he’s a mystery as to what he would give you, is out of options and would have to be added to the 40 man. I doubt the front office would make that move considering all of that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.shevchik Todd Shevchik

    I have the problem solved.
    Make Brandon Inge the third base coach and Nick Leyva a special bench coach.
    Solves both problems.

    • stickyweb

      That’s funny Todd, when somebody said “let him pick up the towels in the clubhouse”, the first thing I thought of was getting him some kind of coaches position. But does he instantly lose his rapport with the players when he becomes “management”?

  • brilemon

    If a leader = 10 wins, here is a sure fire line-up of managers and GMs to get to 90:
    1.) Gibson – lf
    2.) Hurdle / Manuel- rf
    3.) Brett – 3b
    4.) Mattingly – 1b
    5.) Weiss/ Washington – ss
    6.) Francona – cf
    7.) Girardi / Matheny- c
    8.) Sveum – 2b
    9.) Nolan Freaking Ryan – P

    Sign them up, all they have to do is stand there and we will get 10 wins each.