The Rebirth of Prince Fielder
When the Rangers acquired Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers before the 2014 season, they were counting on him to hit homers and drive in a lot of runs. Fielder was coming off two “down” seasons in Detroit which saw him average 27 home runs and 107 RBIs. Indeed these numbers were down from Fielder’s previous five years in Milwaukee where he averaged 40 home runs and 113 RBIs. While the Rangers certainly didn’t expect Milwaukee-type numbers, they would’ve been thrilled with a 30 home run, 100 RBI campaign. What they got instead was 42 games played before a neck surgery that ended Prince’s season. Three home runs and 16 RBIs was not what they expected.
Coming into 2015 no one knew what to expect from Fielder. While he proclaimed he felt great and even seemed a bit more svelte than normal, there wasn’t overwhelming proof that Prince could return to form coming off a major neck surgery and a season on the pine. Fielder had never missed more than 5 games in an entire season and in the previous eight seasons he had played in all 162, FOUR TIMES. Who does that? Fielder had been a model of health and durability before coming to Texas and never had to recover from a season ending injury before. Clearly it was wise for everyone involved to temper their expectations, but that makes what he is doing this year all the more remarkable.
Raise your hand if you predicted this Prince Fielder. If you are raising your hand, you’re either lying or a baseball genius who is clearly smarter than all the rest of us. This is a Prince Fielder no one has ever seen before and it is exactly what the Rangers have needed.
The two things that have set this season apart:
Leadership and Plate Approach
What could easily be lost in this discussion is the leadership Prince has brought to the Rangers this season. Early this year Prince Fielder moved from being an everyday first basemen to being an everyday designated hitter. This may seem small, but it isn’t. Prince Fielder has always played first base and came into this season as the starting first baseman for the Rangers. It was and always has been clear that Prince is a below-average first basemen and when the decision was made to play the better defender in Moreland, Fielder took it in stride. What has followed has been an offensive resurgence by Moreland and improved defense at first base. These are the types of things leaders do because something clicks and all the sudden they care more about the team than they do themselves. Michael Young displayed this type of humility time and time again and Prince has followed suit.
Fielder is also having fun which is an important part of leadership. Whether it’s scoring from first on a game winning double or being “shot” by a sniper in the crowd that leads to a rumbling tumble on the base paths, Fielder is having the time of his life and that’s infectious.
While his leadership has been instrumental, Fielder’s approach at the plate has been simply incredible and completely surprising.
Prince Fielder’s averages for the previous eight seasons (excluding last season)
Fielder’s pace for 2015
Clearly Fielder’s power numbers are down which has a lot more to do with the Rangers’ lineup than diminishing skill or power. Fielder doesn’t have a Ryan Braun or Miguel Cabrera in the lineup as protection and that’s what is so impressive about the year he is putting together. Fielder is showing a level of growth and maturity that Rangers fans didn’t know he possessed.
Rather than trying to hit bad pitches out of the park, Fielder has changed his plate-approach and become a complete hitter. Fielder is on pace for career highs in hits (211) and batting average (.345). He is also on pace to strike out 40 times less than he averaged in the previous eight seasons. Try and wrap your minds around this: Fielder is seeing WORSE pitches and getting MORE hits while hitting for a HIGHER average. Not to mention his slugging, on base and OPS are all at or above his career averages. Let’s all enjoy what we’re seeing from Prince this year because it’s truly rare.
The Rangers have been a microcosm of inconsistency this year while Prince Fielder has been nothing but consistent. He has given Rangers fans a reason to watch baseball this summer and coincidently because of his contributions, they are still in the hunt. Do me one favor Rangers fans – make sure at least once this summer you head on out to the Globe so you can see it for yourselves.
The New and Improved Prince Fielder.