What has happened to the mighty Prince Fielder?
Nestled nicely between Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez as the No. 4 hitter for the No. 1-advertised-in-the-preseason Detroit Tigers offense, coming off a season during which he set personal bests with a .313 batting average and 85.5 percent contact rate and beginning the 2013 campaign at the ripe age of 28, Fielder appeared primed for a monstrous year. He had also banked considerable trust of his fantasy owners for his track record of weekly reliability; his 87.5 percent Consistency Rating in 2012 was second best only to teammate Miguel Cabrera.
With nearly 70 percent of the Tigers' 2013 regular-season games in the books, however, Fielder is in the midst of arguably his worst big league campaign. His stats make that case: He is on track to set career lows in batting average (.259), slugging percentage (.432), weighted on-base average (.344) and wins above replacement (0.8); those among full-time campaigns.
More disturbingly, the previously consistent Fielder has morphed into a player who is anything but. As you'll see in the chart below, he has warranted starting in ESPN standard Rotisserie leagues less than half the time this season (47.1 percent Consistency Rating), and unlike last year, when he was a "Stud" five times and "Stiff" once -- lower numbers in both categories, again, representing a more consistent week-to-week level of production -- he has five Stud and seven Stiff weeks.
Fielder's struggles reside in the realm of the inexplicable. Specifically, he has gone from being one of the best fastball hitters in the game to one who is below average. Normally, depending upon fastball velocity, that might be a product of declining bat speed, but breaking down his performance doesn't support the argument:
It's that "Fastballs 90 mph or less" that stands out. Could this be a mere one-year blip? That's a fair guess, and the fact remains that Fielder is in no less attractive circumstances for fantasy for the upcoming month-plus than he was during the preseason. Frustrating as his struggles have been, his career-long track record of consistency should earn him more credit with his owners. Temper your expectations somewhat, but not to the point where Fielder shouldn't be ranked among the top 10 players at his position going forward.
Why risk-taking matters more this year: Devastating injuries, coupled with the recent Biogenesis suspensions, have cost the fantasy baseball world many of the higher-ranked players in the Consistency Ratings chart at column's end. To wit, David Wright, the No. 2-ranked player (88.2 percent), and Carlos Gonzalez, whose 82.4 percent rating places him among the 13 best, are now on the disabled list, as is Jason Grilli, one of eight players to have been a Stud nine times in 2013. Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz, who like Gonzalez has an 82.4 percent rating, and Everth Cabrera, whose 76.5 percent rating rates him among the top 23, are out for the regular season after having accepted 50-game suspensions.
That means five of the 23 most consistent players have been lost entirely, at least for the next few weeks, and it leaves their owners scrambling for replacements. This was largely the idea behind this week's "60 Feet 6 Inches" and "Hit Parade" columns -- those targeting "lightning in a bottle" picks -- and I'll toss a new name onto one of those lists, in light of Corey Kluber's injury: Danny Salazar, who struck out 10 Tigers on Wednesday, including Miguel Cabrera three times.
The red-hot Eric Hosmer: Astute fantasy owners might notice that Hosmer has surged ahead of the aforementioned Fielder in terms of his Consistency Rating, his 58.8 percent number placing him 13th among first base-eligible players and 10th among pure first basemen. Hosmer has done so by scoring eight consecutive "Starts" in points-based and eight in his past nine in Rotisserie-based scoring, thanks to .323/.360/.532 triple-slash rates, 11 home runs, 36 RBIs and five stolen bases in 57 games in the past eight weeks. Hosmer's seasonal totals might not be eye-popping, but it's his consistent level of production since the beginning of June that should earn him a permanent spot in any contender's lineup.
The true "hot bat": Hosmer hasn't been the most consistently successful performer since June, however. Of the four players to be a perfect 8-for-8 in terms of Starts during that span is ... Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Surprised? Believe it, as in addition to that feat, Alvarez has but two Stud weeks, meaning this previously streaky slugger has settled in nicely as one of the most consistent players of the past two months. Remarkably, the improvement has nothing to do with his boosting his contact rate; he has whiffed in 31.6 percent of his at-bats and has a 65.1 percent contact rate during the past eight weeks, those actually no better than his career rates of 31.1 and 65.4 percent. Still, Alvarez has .270/.329/.545 triple-slash rates, 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 55 games during that span, which should earn him much more credit in fantasy leagues.
Consistency Ratings: 2013 Weeks 1-17
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating in Rotisserie leagues (Roto%), calculated as the percentage of the season's 17 weeks -- not weeks the player played, but total weeks on the MLB schedule -- in which his Player Rater standing registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have a Consistency Rating of 50 percent or greater in either Rotisserie or points-based formats in order to be included on the chart.
"Start," "Stud" and "Stiff" scores are for Rotisserie scoring formats.