The Rangers acquisition of Prince Fielder was almost universally applauded by the “baseball experts”. The prevailing thought was that the additions of Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo would give the Rangers an almost unstoppable offense, one that could carry them deep into October.
Ranger fans seemed to embrace the big guy as well. Prince Fielder jerseys became the newest must-have piece of team apparel. Ranger fans have always been quick to embrace power hitters and now we had one who seemed like he was tailor-made to play in Arlington.
I was not among them. It wasn’t that I was upset at Ian Kinsler‘s trade. I knew that his time was running out in Texas and the time to move him and get something in return was dwindling. I had wanted the Rangers to package whatever they needed to pry David Price away from Tampa Bay.
When I heard about the Fielder trade, I was disgusted. Others looked at Prince Fielder and they saw 35 homeruns and 100+ RBI. They saw Fielder having a career renaissance, poking balls into the short porch in right in regularity.
I looked at Fielder and I saw nothing but warning signs. Others blamed Fielder’s falling offensive output on pitcher friendly Comerica Park. I saw something else.
Let’s be honest here. Prince Fielder is a Really. Big. Guy. And the thing about athletes that carry that kind of weight is that they will break down. It’s only a matter of time. And when they do, it usually their legs that go first.
Fielder’s entire game is built on power. He is decent in the field but nothing to write home about. He’s a logjam on the bases. He’s a deadpull hitter who has to hit the ball deep to be effective. If his legs go, his power goes, and then you’ve got a $20 million a year anchor around the neck of your franchise and nobody is going to take him off your hands.
Fast forward 17 games into the 2014 season. Prince is hitting a cool .190 on the season. He has almost as many strikeouts (10) as hits (12). Exactly one of those has been a homerun. He has driven in a paltry 5 runs on the season.
Fielder has gotten on base, with a respectable .320 OBP, but that is largely due to 11 walks, most of which were intentional. Given the other numbers I just quoted, you have to wonder just how wise it is to walk Fielder at this point. Are other teams giving him too much credit?
To be fair, the ridiculous overshift every team plays against Fielder has robbed him of a few would be hits. Enough so that his average might climb above .200 if people played him straight up.
The disturbing thing though, is that he hasn’t been driving the ball. The short porch in right was supposed to become his personal playpen. Even Fielder thought so. When he was traded, he ended his announcement tweet with the hashtag #rightfieldbeready.
Unless he was talking about the gusts of wind generated from his regular swings and misses, rightfield has been very safe. His one homer went to center, nowhere near that short porch he was supposed to pepper with baseballs.
Factor this in with the fact that his production fell both years he was in Detroit, and you begin to see a disturbing picture forming. As our own Ben Dieter pointed out yesterday it is likely that Fielder will never again be the 30+ HR 100+ RBI guy that he was in Milwaukee. He doesn’t have to have some catastrophic injury to derail his career, he could simply just quit hitting.
As a long time Ranger fan, I’ve watched a lot of guys wear the uniform who were homer or strikeout’ .250 hitters. I fear that is where Fielder is headed. He’s not hitting much of anything with authority and that is the scary part.
Granted, we are 17 games into the season and the entire Ranger offense has been a disappointment. I think everyone has been pressing a little and Fielder might simply be trying to hard to make his new team proud. He has started to show some signs of life as this 10 game homestand has gone on. This hand wringing could be all for nothing.
One thing is for sure. Fielder needs to start raking, and soon. The Rangers need Fielder to start knocking the ball around. Maybe he needs Adrian Beltre back in the lineup to protect him (though Kevin Kouzmanoff has been tearing it up).
I certainly hope that I was wrong about Fielder. I want to see him start pounding high flies into the porch. With the Ranger pitching staff performing better than I had expected, if the offense can catch up, this can still be the monster team all the experts expected.
If it’s going to happen, it needs to start happening. Soon.