AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Prince Fielder was struggling to produce even before his recent injury.
If Prince Fielder’s herniated disk in his neck costs him the rest of the season, it would be a surprise turn for a player who had been among the most durable in baseball.
Most Times Using Disabled List
Since his first full season in 2006, Fielder has missed a total of 13 games over a span of eight seasons. His 1,283 games played during that stretch were more than any other player in baseball.
The slugging first baseman has already missed five games this season, matching the most he’s missed in a single season in 2006 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Fielder’s absence is just the latest in a long line of maladies that have afflicted the Texas Rangers. They have used the disabled list 17 times already this season, four more than the next closest team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Signs of decline
Even before his injury, Fielder had been struggling to replicate the power numbers that he had in the past. After posting a .981 OPS in his last season with the Brewers in 2011, his OPS has decreased in each of the last 3 seasons, bottoming out at .720 so far this season.
Due to the fact that Fielder doesn’t contribute much on defense or the basepaths, his diminished hitting has resulted in -0.3 wins above replacement this season, making him one of the least productive first basemen in baseball.
Back in 2011, 22 percent of Fielder’s fly balls ended up as home runs. That number dropped to 16 percent in 2012, then 13 percent last season. Through 42 games this season, only eight percent of his fly balls are turning into home runs. This season his average fly ball distance is just 272 feet – that ranks outside the top 100 in baseball.
Opposing teams have taken notice. Fielder is seeing more pitches in the strike zone and more fastballs than he had previously in his career. Although he seems to be seeing no shortage of hittable pitches, he’s no longer doing anywhere near the damage with pitches in the strike zone that he used to, slugging just .402 against pitches in the strike zone on the season.
Justin Havens and Lee Singer contributed to this post