Sunday, May 11, 2008

Alright Already - Where's The Beef?

If you've been reading In-Between Hops since spring training, you know I've had this somewhat morbid obsession with Prince Fielder's eating habits and more importantly the effect that those eating habits have on his hitting statistics. As tempted as I've been to blast him for his vegetarian ways, I've so far restrained myself - even gave him a reprieve when he hit two home runs in one game on April 23.

Despite hitting a home run on Saturday, Fielder has only 5 on the year. He is 6 behind last year's pace, and is on pace to hit only 23 all year. We are almost a quarter of the way into the season. It's time to start asking questions.

Hit Tracker Online keeps track of the distance of every home run hit in the Major Leagues. They use mathematical modeling to calculate distances - not the bogus observational methods that the home team scoreboard operator uses. Because Prince has only 5 home runs this year, it's a small sample size to use in any proper analysis but even still, in analyzing his data some very telling patters are emerging.

The table below summarizes some of the data from Hit Tracker, plus adds a column I calculated on my own:



Avg Speed

Year HR Dist. off Bat 400+ 425+ 450+ 400+
2006 28 408 110.7 15 9 3 6%
2007 50 409 110.5 30 16 5 11%
2008 5 400 108.3 3 0 0 3%

Again, it's only a sample of five, but Fielder's home runs this year on average are traveling 8 or 9 feet less than those he has hit in the past. The average speed of the ball off the bat is over 2 mph slower for this year's home runs compared to last year's. Between 2006 and 2007, 42% of Fielder's home runs traveled 425 feet or more. He has yet to hit a single ball that far this year. Finally, only 3% of the balls that Fielder has hit into play this season have traveled 400 feet or more, compared to 11% last year.

You can draw you own concussions from this data, but mine is that Prince Fielder simply can't hit a baseball as far as he used to be able to. When you notice something like that, it is a fair question to ask why. With Prince, there is a very obvious and probable answer.

One other tidbit I noticed is that Prince has hit 5 sacrifice flies this year (UPDATE: Got his 6th on Sunday) compared to only 4 all of last year. Could it be that a couple of those balls that landed in the outfielder's glove would have sailed over the fence with a little more oomph behind them?

If Prince Fielder wants to be a vegetarian, that's his business - just like it's his business if he wants to do 100 sit-ups in the morning after he gets out of bed. But the things that a player does off the field that affect their performance on the field do become the team's business. The team can and should take those things into consideration when determining how valuable that player is and how much money they are willing to pay him.

Finally, I have no idea how much Prince Fielder weighs but just by looking at him, it's pretty obvious that he's somehow replacing the calories he used to be getting from meat. And there aren't a lot of calories in broccoli and green beans - you know what I mean?


Andrew Romagna said...

I agree, Prince looks bigger this year and by the way this is exactly why you don't give 3rd year players 5-year contracts. I very much want Prince to go on a tear, hit 50 HR's and make the Brewers pay but with every day that goes by I wonder if maybe Prince is a 30HR, 275BA guy and not a 50HR 300BA guy.

Now if it was only Prince that was down we could deal with it but the whole team is hitting less than I expected. Yuck!

Ken and Tonic said...

thank you. I've been waiting for someone to do an analysis like this. it's not just that his numbers are down, it's that the ones he does hit aren't nearly with the authority they use to be. You can call it a slump if you want, but to me its pretty obvious that his power is down. I'm not a regular reader on this site, so I'm not sure how much you've dedicated to this issue, but I've been expecting this kind of production out of Prince ever since I learned of his diet change back in February.

Theron Schultz said...

If the whole team is hitting less than expected, what's the excuse for the other guys? Corey Hart's on pace for only four home runs after hitting twenty-four last year and still eating meat, isn't he?

Scott Segrin said...

Thanks for writing everyone.

I don't think that it's fair to say that the whole team isn't hitting (especially not the past couple of days.) The Brewers have been around the middle of the pack in offense in the NL. As a team, they're not hitting as well as they did last year but at least they're average.

Just because a few other players aren't hitting doesn't mean we shouldn't ask why Prince isn't hitting. He's the one who hit 50 home runs last year. Yes, we should also ask why Corey Hart isn't hitting and why J.J. Hardy isn't hitting, but they are all separate questions.

I have no idea if Corey Hart eats meat, but if he doesn't though, he would be doing it the right way - out of the lime light and not making a big deal about it like Prince is.

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