Prince Powers through April’s Doldrums
This has been a tough month so far for Texas. By all rights, this team shouldn’t even be 6-8. A couple of blowout games have raised the team batting average above the Mendoza line (a sad misnomer, but that’s another article for another day).
But the slugging struggles for the team overall only make more stark and brilliant the start of one Prince Fielder. Indeed, Cecil’s son is putting up numbers we haven’t seen from him since 2012, with a .386/.435/.509 slash line. That’s all the more impressive because of a lack of protection from Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo early in the year (each of whom is still struggling to summit the .200 mark). The good news is, there’s a Hall of Fame precedent that Prince’s early season run may be the rule, not the exception.
Any player coming back from a neck injury has a hard mountain to climb, but the relief is amazing. The ability to improve everything from pitch tracking to swing dynamics is almost exponential where the neck is involved.
The most prominent example is Ted Williams. To understand how much a neck problem can impact a hitter, consider that Williams, who’s arguably the greatest hitter of all time, put up the following slash line during his 1959 neck-plagued season: .254/.372/.419.
The good news is, the following season Williams (in his swan song) put up this line, at age 41: .316/.451/.645. That’s a huge delta, but doesn’t even come close to most of Williams career slash stats of .344/.482/.634.
The point being, when a player has successfully rehabbed a neck injury, we can look at a Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career and see that the recovery is amazing. There’s a good chance that Prince’s return from the neck troubles, plus a healthy season in Arlington 2015 (.vs Detroit in 2012-2013) portents a return to his Milwaukee numbers. To remind you what that means, here’s what Prince put up while with the Brew Crew: a .282/.390/.540 slash line and three top 10 MVP finishes.
Also remember, in Milwaukee, he spent a good bit of time protecting Ryan Braun. In Texas, he’s protected by Beltre and Choo. If anyone wants odds on those two both being cold through August, I’ll take your bets.
As for Prince, there’s ample reason to expect April portents a season finally fit for his royal moniker.