With a final gasp early in the 2009 season, Brandon Inge played the best three months of baseball in his career. Inge earned himself a spot on the American League All-Star team and looked destined for the best year of his career.
But once that game ended, he quickly reverted back to his old self.
A .235 career hitter with a .305 career OBP, this 33-year-old ballplayer has somehow managed to remain a staple in the Detroit lineup year after year. With the constant excuse of bad knees used to explain to last year's struggles, Inge was supposed to begin this year where he left off in July 2009.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Through 45 games this year, Inge has hit .218 and struck out 41 times. Shielded by the worst bottom half of a lineup in baseball, which includes Gerald Laird (.158) and Adam Everett (.203), Inge has avoided much scrutiny.
The other factor keeping him alive is the myth he is a great fielder. While he has great range and makes exceptional plays, his overall prowess as a fielder has been overrated by those same great plays.
Beginning in 2005, he became the starting third baseman after slowly switching from catcher in 2004.
Inge has consistently been middle of the pack.
2005: .957 FPCT (12/19 qualified), 23 errors (17/19 qualified)
2006: .960 (11/20 qualified), 22 errors (17/20)
2007: .959 (14/22 qualified), 18 errors (16/22)
2008: Not qualified, moved back to catcher for part of year
2009: .955 (15/18 qualified), 20 errors (17/18)
Some fans love him for the loyalty of enduring a 119-loss season in 2003, and believe he was an integral part of turning around the franchise. Others look at him and dub him "crINGE."
But as a free agent in 2011, the time has come for both sides to move on.