Fielder has to dial long distance in Detroit
January, 25, 2012
By Derek Czenczelewski, ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
ESPN Stats & InfoPrince Fielder hit 24 home runs last season at Miller Park. Of those, only 14 would have definitely been home runs at Comerica Park. The green dots indicate definite home runs, the yellow dots are toss-ups and the red dots would not have been homers.
According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, which spent the 2011 season tracking all of Prince Fielder’s long fly balls (outs and hits), the new Detroit Tigers slugger would have had a significantly different home run total had he played in Detroit last season. Of Fielder’s 24 home runs at Miller Park in 2011, nine would not have been home runs in Comerica Park’s cavernous confines. One could have gone either way and 14 definitely would have been home runs.
For the sake of consistency, weather was neutralized when simulating Fielder’s long drives from Miller Park to Comerica Park. Although Detroit and Milwaukee have relatively comparable weather, Miller Park has a retractable roof and Comerica Park is an open-air ballpark. Wind patterns and cold fronts could play a big factor in Fielder’s home run totals in 2012, but just as important will be his approach at the plate.
In Milwaukee, Fielder took advantage of Miller Park’s short power alleys, hitting for power to all fields: 28.9 percent of his fly balls at home went for home runs, the highest such mark in the majors.
Fielder may become more “pull happy” in an effort to adapt to his new surroundings. A similar case can be seen in Mark Teixeira at Yankee Stadium, and Jason Giambi before him. Even Fielder’s father, Cecil, had to adapt to Tiger Stadium’s cavernous centerfield by pulling the ball more frequently.
That may prove difficult as teams have found a few weaknesses in Fielder’s approach and he’s also going to be changing leagues. Facing lefties in 2011, Fielder hit .067 (2-30) with 19 strikeouts against sliders down and away in the zone. Righties had less success against Fielder, but managed to hold Fielder to a .250 average (16-64, 17 K) against fastballs up in the zone.
That provides little relief when one comes to realize Fielder hit better than .300 against all pitch types from righties, outside of cutters (.273) and splitters (.267).
So who will give Fielder the biggest fits in the AL Central? The Cleveland Indians' Ubaldo Jimenez held lefties to a .125 average (9-72, 32 K) against high heat in 2011. Lefties hit just .254 (15-59, 21 K) against Jimenez’ splitter as well. At least on paper, Jimenez should be Fielder’s AL Central nemesis.
Others could include Francisco Liriano, depending on which version we see in 2011, and his Minnesota Twins teammate Carl Pavano. Lefties hit .335 against Pavano’s heat, but just .212 and .213 respectively against his splitter and changeup.
Fielder's final stat line in 2011 will ultimately come down to how quickly he can make adjustments: adjustments to a new team, city, league and stadium.
Many of Fielder’s long drives that went for home runs in Miller Park will still result in extra-base hits in Detroit. Of Fielder’s nine home runs that did not translate to Comerica Park in our analysis, five would have hit the outfield fence. The average distance among those nine “non-homers” was 415 feet, roughly 11 feet longer than the average MLB home run in 2011.