Thursday, February 18, 2010

THE IRON PRINCE

As the debate as to whether the Brewers should sign Prince Fielder to a long term contract heats up, it will inevitably involve a discussion about his size and just how long a career he is able to have because of it.  Rob Neyer points out in an article for ESPN that "there's never been a player in the majors who was built like Fielder and enjoyed a long and productive career."  Very true.  In fact it might be more accurate to say that there's never been a person built like Prince who became a ball player.

What's not being brought up in this discussion however is the dichotomy of how incredibly durable Prince Fielder has been so far in his career.  Over the last four seasons, 2006-2009, only one other player in the Majors has appeared in more games than Fielder - Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.  Only twice over that span was Fielder not in the starting lineup for two consecutive days, and he never sat three in a row.  Maybe more astounding is the fact over the past four years, no other player in the Majors started more games in the field than Prince Fielder has.

Games started in the field (2006-2009)

  1. Prince Fielder - 628
  2. Jeff Francoeur - 627
  3. Adrian Gonzalez - 622
  4. Orlando Cabrera - 622
  5. Miguel Cabrera - 616
(This raises an interesting question - just who is the Brewers' back-up first baseman?)

I created a table of every Major League players' weight and height from the Lahman Baseball Archive database.  I then created an index for every player as to how similar his body type is to Prince Fielder's.  The only players who were extremely similar to Prince in stature had obscure names like Chris Britton, Calvin Pickering, and (e-hem) Jumbo Brown.  But not too far down the list is a guy named Frank Thomas.  Yes, that Frank Thomas - "The Big Hurt" - the future Hall of Famer who played 155 games and hit 26 home runs at the age of 39.

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