A Move to Texas hasn’t cured Prince Fielder’s Struggles

prince-field-rangers-strugglesPrince Fielder’s two-year stint in Detroit didn’t exactly end on a positive note. The 5’11”, 275-pound slugger hit a paltry .225 with 0 home runs and RBI’s in the playoffs last year. The ACLS was especially a nightmare as Fielder batted .182 while the Tigers were dispatched in six games. And one quote after the ACLS that’s seared in the minds of Detroit fans is this:  “It’s not really tough. It’s over,” Fielder said. “For me, it’s over bro.”

Not exactly the words that one of America’s most die-hard baseball towns wants to hear when they miss out on the World Series by two games. But it was honesty from a guy who, up until October, had played solid for Detroit. He hit .279, had 25 homers and batted in 106 runs during the regular season. But then again, “solid” numbers like these weren’t exactly what the Tigers were paying Fielder $24 million a year for. So they shipped the struggling first baseman to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler and the promise to pay $30 million more of Fielder’s contract.

It was thought that a move out West, to a place where fans are a little more relaxed, might cure some of the slugger’s hitting struggles. This was especially the case since he’d been both physically and emotionally fried from giving his all in Detroit. “Those playoffs, I was really trying to be better and help us win,” he said. “I wasn’t able to. By then, I’ve given my all. My time. My free time. My brain. It was like, ‘I just can’t do it anymore.'”

So far, Fielder claims to be a lot more at ease in Texas. “Good – everything is good,” he said when asked about his time with the Rangers. But there’s one glaringly obvious thing that’s not so good: his .209 hitting through 30 games this season.

It appears as if Fielder’s postseason struggles have followed him to Arlington, where he’s been a shell of his former self, knocking in just two home runs and nine RBI’s so far. The lone bright spot is that he’s been intentionally walked nine times this season, which currently leads the MLB. But if he continues hitting like this, it won’t be long until teams stop pitching around him.

prince-field-rangers-struggles-2So what’s the reasoning behind the struggles? Unfortunately, Fielder doesn’t really have a clue. “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t look too deep into it. If it was June or July, you probably wouldn’t notice it.”

He also refuses to worry about defenses constantly shifting to minimize his ability to hit to certain spots. “As far as trying to patty-cake it, manipulate the ball, that’s not me,” Fielder explained. “If there’s no shortstop in sight, maybe. But I still gotta go try to be me. I can’t finesse a ball and be me. I’m just basically trying to feel good. When I feel good, good things happen.”

The team’s manager, Ron Washington, also doesn’t have any answers for the struggles. “I don’t know,” Washington said. “I just don’t see the Prince swing we’re used to seeing. It’s just not there right now. It’s gotta start soon. He’s not a .200 hitter. He’s a power hitter who can hit. It’s gotta start soon.”

The way that things are currently going, it’s hard to know when “soon” is going to be. But the one benefit that Fielder has right now is the time of year. We’re just now entering May and there’s 132 regular season games left. So unlike his October doldrums with Detroit, he’s got plenty more time to atone for his miserable .209 batting average thus far. Moreover, there’s still enough time for the Rangers, who are currently 17-14 and just two games back of the AL West-leading Oakland A’s.

MLB Power Rankings for September 10th, 2013

david-ortizNow entering the final stretch before the postseason, several teams are jockying for playoff berths. Only the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers have their playoff paths clearly laid out. Quite a few other teams are hoping for a good run to close out the regular season so they can join the World Series hunt. That said, let’s look at how the clubs that are still alive currently rank.

1. Boston Red Sox (87-58, 1st in AL East) – Boston is gelling at just the right time after scoring 57 runs in the last six games. Considering this feat came against the Tigers and Yankees, that’s quite an accomplishment. With Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA) returning, there’s no reason to think that they won’t finish with the league’s top record.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (83-60, 1st in NL Central) – Not only do we think that St. Louis is tops in baseball’s toughest division, but they’re also playing the best out of any NL team period. Following a sweep of the Pirates, this team finishes with a very favorable schedule that includes 12 home games.

3. Atlanta Braves (86-57, 1st in NL East) – Atlanta may have lost the league’s best record over the weekend, but that’s certainly no cause for concern. They’re a virtual lock for the playoffs and are still in the pole position for home field advantage in the NL playoffs.

4. LA Dodgers (84-59, 1st in NL West) – With a 12-game lead on the Diamondbacks, LA shouldn’t have much trouble grabbing the NL West title. However, they can’t be too happy about being swept by the Reds and losing four straight overall.

5. Oakland A’s (83-60, 1st in AL West) – Unlike several of the teams listed above, Oakland is no lock to win their division title. However, we like them to build some distance from Texas thanks to six upcoming games against the Twins.

6. Cincinnati Reds (82-63, 3rd in NL Central) – Cincinnati’s postseason dreams are far from a sure thing. However, they are doing their best to control the situation by winning three of four at St. Louis, and sweeping the Dodgers.

7. Detroit Tigers (82-62, 1st in AL Central) – Detroit has played dismally max-scherzerover the past two series. In fact, this might be putting it lightly since they’ve lost five of their last six games. The past two contests against the Royals were just awful as they surrendered 36 runs! Hopefully staff ace Max Scherzer (19-3, 3.01 ERA) can stop the bleeding.

8. Texas Rangers (81-62, 2nd in AL West) – Texas has cause for concern after losing two straight series to the A’s and Angels. But all is not lost since they have an opportunity to get the AL West lead back in an upcoming home series against Oakland.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (82-61, 2nd in NL Central) – Pittsburgh is in a great position to grab a postseason berth this year. The only question is if they’ll be playing in a Wild Card game or grabbing a division title. If it’s going to be the latter, they’ll need to play better than they did recently, after being swept by St. Louis.

10. Tampa Bay Rays (78-64, 2nd in AL East) – The battle for the last Wild Card spot in the AL is going to be very competitive. Right now, Tampa Bay leads this race with a slim 1.5-game lead over Baltimore and Cleveland. But their postseason chances will be severely tested by Boston this week.

11. Baltimore Orioles (77-66, 3rd in AL East) – Can the Orioles hit enough homers to bat their way into the playoffs? A telling series against the Yankees this week will go a long ways towards answering this question.

12. Cleveland Indians (77-66, 2nd in AL Central) – The Indians will hope cleveland-indiansto take advantage of a favorable September schedule in their push for a Wild Card spot. Series against the Twins, White Sox and Astros should provide some wins. But what about the six games they play against the playoff-hungry Royals?

13. Kansas City Royals (75-69, 3rd in AL Central) – Don’t count Kansas City out of the postseason just yet. As just mentioned, they play Cleveland six times and also have Detroit and Texas coming up. This is certainly not an enviable schedule. But if KC can catch fire, maybe they’ll be a surprise postseason addition.

14. New York Yankees (76-68, 4th in AL East) – The last club with realistic playoff chances is the Yankees. Unfortunately, these chances just took a huge hit after Derek Jeter went down again with another ankle injury. Already dealing with a shaky bullpen, this injury definitely doesn’t help New York’s cause.

Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera having Unbelievable Seasons Once Again

miguel-cabreraWe’re now about one-third of the way through the Major League Baseball season, and the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders. Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout are definitely part of the contenders group. In fact, they’re more than just contenders as these two are on pace for incredible seasons yet again.

Cabrera is quite possibly proving himself to be the best hitter in baseball while Trout, who’s just 21 years old, displays an exceptional all-around game. So it’s no surprise that these guys are early season American League MVP candidates once again

When looking at Cabrera and Trout from an overall perspective – with hitting and fielding taken into account – about the only thing separating them is their teams’ success. Cabrera’s Tigers are sitting atop the AL Central with a 29-20 record while Trout’s Angels have fallen into third in the AL West with a 23-28 mark.

Despite the obvious differences in their teams’ records, neither of these guys are showing signs of slowing down any time soon. Here’s a quick look at what they’ve done so far.

Miguel Cabrera

miguel-cabrera-1The reigning AL MVP is on pace for an even better season this time around. Last year, he hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI’s. In the 2013 campaign, he’s hitting .377 with 14 homers and 57 RBI’s through just 49 games. If things keep up like this, it’s not inconceivable to think that the 30-year-old could challenge Hack Wilson’s single season record of 191 RBI’s.

As of now, Cabrera only needs a couple of homers to put himself in a position to take the triple crown. Don’t bet against him getting the triple crown either because Cabrera is excellent at making adjustments for different pitchers and takes advantage of any errantly-thrown fastball.

Perhaps Trout described Cabrera best when he said, “Just his approach – hitting fastballs the other way, turning on off-speed and especially his approach on two strikes. You make one bad pitch, and he is going to hit it. It’s his consistency. He punishes mistakes. I’ll get a pitch to hit and just pull off a little bit. He doesn’t miss.”

Mike Trout

mike-troutAt an age when many top prospects are graduating from AA to AAA, Mike Trout is playing with the Major League elite. He’s hit .304 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI’s through 51 games. And while this may not scream MVP, it’s what Trout does from an all-around perspective that separates him from the pack.

The 21-year-old has scored 41 runs, stolen 12 bases and routinely makes highlight-reel plays in center field. The latter could even earn Trout a Gold Glove this season – something that many felt he deserved in the 2012 campaign.

When it comes to the all-important Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat, Trout ranks sixth in the MLB, which is just four spots away from second place Cabrera. That said, the third-year pro is invaluable to his team – a fact which sometimes goes unnoticed with the Angels’ struggles.

There’s still over 110 games left in the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how Trout and Cabrera fare within the next few months. Cabrera looks to have an inside track to his second straight MVP award. But if Los Angeles can improve in the win-loss department, look for Trout to make a strong bid for the AL MVP award too.

MLB Power Rankings for April 3rd, 2013

Justin VerlanderThe 2013 Major League Baseball season has officially begun, which means that we finally get to see some meaningful baseball played for the first since last October. At this point, many people are predicting that the Detroit Tigers will be on top of the baseball world when the season’s over. However, there are definitely some other hungry teams that are hoping to prove the experts wrong. This being said, let’s take a closer look at these contenders as the 2013 MLB season begins.

1. Detroit Tigers (1-0) – Nothing went right for the Tigers in the World Series after being swept 4-0 by the Giants. However, Detroit looks prepared to make sure that doesn’t happen this year since their team is stacked. They signed ace Justin Verlander to a five-year, $180 million contract extension, and have added Victor Martinez and Tori Hunter to an already-solid batting lineup. These two, along with AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, should give opposing pitchers fits all season.

2. Washington Nationals (1-0) – The main mission for the Nationals will be keeping their stars healthy – namely staff ace Stephen Stasburg and Bryce Harper. The bullpen looks especially strong for Washington since they brought in closer Rafael Soriano to complement current closer Drew Storen and long-reliever Tyler Clippard. Once again, if the Nationals’ pitching avoids injuries, look for this team to come out of the National League.

matt-kemp3. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-1) – Did we say to watch for Washington to come out of the NL? Well Los Angeles will have something to say about this – especially with their dangerous 3-4-5 hitting rotation of Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers won’t have to simply rely on home runs to bring them victories either because they feature a potent 1-2 pitching combo of Zach Grienke and Clayton Kershaw.

4. Los Angeles Angels (1-0) – The Dodgers aren’t the only game in town this year because the Angles should also have a stellar team. A year after winning the AL Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout should compete for the AL MVP award. L.A. added Josh Hamilton to an already tough lineup that includes Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo. The bullpen could use some work, but the Angels do have good starting pitching, beginning with Jered Weaver.

5. Atlanta Braves (1-0) – As usual, the Braves figure to be in the NL mix once again, led by young outfielders Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton. These two should more than make up the retired Chipper Jones and his missing hitting production. The pitching will be lead by Kris Medlen and Tim Hudson, and Brandon Beachy is expected to strengthen the rotation when he returns from injury.

tim-lincecum6. San Francisco Giants (1-1) – Tim Lincecum headlines the defending World Champion Giants’ rotation as the 2013 MLB season opens. And he’ll be joined by Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, which should be one very formidable trio. Unfortunately, there are question marks for San Francisco, beginning with the offense. Sure they have reigning NL MVP Buster Posey; however, there’s not a lot of parts to place around him. And if Sergio Romo doesn’t come through, the Giants could have some major closer troubles.

7. Texas Rangers (1-1) – The loss of Josh Hamilton is definitely a blow to the Rangers’ hitting. However, the cupboard is hardly bare because Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and David Murphy will provide quite an offensive punch. As for pitching, watch out for Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, who could become huge stars this season. Joe Nathan will provide these two with strong support out of the bullpen.

joey-votto8. Cincinnati Reds (0-1) – There’s no question that the Reds will feature one of the strongest batting lineups in all of baseball. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick anchor a very potent attack for Cincinnati. Plus the team picked up Shin-Soo Choo in free agency, and he’ll be making the switch from right field to center this season. Johnny Cueto and Mat Lutos give the Reds two very good starting pitchers, while Aroldis Chapman is a solid closer.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (1-1) – Arizona upgraded their lineup by adding Martin Prado this offseason. He’ll join Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt, Cody Ross and Aaron Hill on the field. And just think how good the Diamondbacks will be when they get centerfielder Adam Eaton back from injury. This team has several quality starting pitchers too, led by Brandon McCarthy and Ian Kennedy.

10. St. Louis Cardinals (1-1) – The Cardinals aren’t a team that’s filled with big names. But as they proved with last year’s NL Championship appearance, this club is definitely capable of winning. And St. Louis is more prepared than anyone else if the injury bug bites because they have such a deep team. The biggest star on the Cardinals should be staff ace Adam Wainwright, while the entire rotation will be fairly decent overall.