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:
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?