Prince Fielder has easily been the Texas Rangers most consistent hitter this season. Even when the rest of the lineup was struggling, Fielder was still plugging away in the middle of the lineup, racking up hits and getting on base. He was the rock of stability amidst the sea of turmoil.
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Heading into last night’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Fielder had .333/.393/.447 batting line, giving him a 135 OPS+ for the year. That ranks second on the Rangers, training only Carlos Peguero among players that qualify for the batting title. Fielder has, quite simply, been the best bat the Rangers have had for most of this season.
However, when looking at the numbers that Prince Fielder is putting up, there is one thing that truly stands out – his lack of power. Fielder, in his 135 plate appearances, has ten extra base hits, but only two home runs. While his extra base hit percentage of 7.4% is not far from the major league average of 7.7%, Fielder’s home run percentage of 1.4% is far below his career average of 4.9%, and the league average of 2.6%.
Yet, looking at Fielder’s percentages with the batted ball, he is still doing his part to hit the ball hard. According to Fangraphs, 31.8% of the balls Fielder has put into play have been considered to be hit hard. Likewise, he has a 31.8% line drive rate (strange coincidence there), well above the league average of 21%. So, where have the home runs gone?
Perhaps Fielder is simply hitting the ball on too much of a line. That 31.8% line drive rate is the highest of his career outside of his 2005 campaign where he has 65 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Fielder has a fly ball rate of just 32.7%, the second lowest mark he has produced in a year where he has 100+ plate appearances. The lift just has not been there.
In exchange for those home runs, Fielder is making much better contact. His 11.9% strikeout rate is far below the league average of 18.3%, and Fielder has certainly done his part to make sure that the Rangers are getting some sort of production in their lineup. In fact, perhaps that lack of production during the month of April is part of why Fielder is not hitting home runs at the rate we are accustomed to. Perhaps, with the struggles the Rangers had, Fielder was simply trying to get on base and help jumpstart the offense, instead of swinging for the fences.
Now that the Texas Rangers offense is starting to heat up, and reinforcements are coming, it will be interesting to see if Prince Fielder has a power surge in the coming weeks. It certainly would not be a surprise if this was to happen. Right now, there is no need to be concerned about his lack of home runs.