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 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.