Perhaps lost in Thursday’s mix – between the doom and gloom of falling behind big against the Oakland Athletics and the elation of Torii Hunter’s walk of home run – was the fact that Prince Fielder reached base in four of five plate appearances, including a home run.
It’s been a tough year for the Detroit Tigers’ highly priced slugger – his OPS bottomed out in the middle of the month at a fairly mediocre .777, but Fielder has been showing signs of life lately. Including yesterday, Fielder now has three home runs in the last two weeks, a span that includes 12 games, 51 plate appearances and a .986 OPS. It’s still a relatively small sample, but that’s more what we’ve been expecting from the team’s number four hitter – it’s what we saw last year – but it’s a stretch of success we’ve hardly seen out of him this year since April.
Stretching the frame or reference back a little further, Fielder has managed an .850 OPS in his last 100 plate appearances (103 PA, to be exact). That’s not a dominating number necessarily, but it’s enough to provide value to the team, make opponents think twice about issuing a free pass to Miguel Cabrera, and punish them if they do.
The Tigers don’t need Prince Fielder to be anything but slightly above average to win the division, make the playoffs, or win the World Series – they’ve gotten this far with only a ho-hum bat out of him – but it sure would make things easier if he continues to bring The Thunder to the ballpark as we move into September and October. Especially if Cabrera were to take some more regular time off in order to rest his myriad ailments.
Fielder’s struggles have manifested themselves in a drop in power, an uptick in strikouts, and a drop in walks. He’s had some messy personal issues come to light this season – something that can’t be easy to deal with – so having a distracted mind at the plate would be understandable, but perhaps the recent resurgence in production shows that he’s found a way to mentally separate these two aspects of his life.
Maybe this is just a blip and he going to continue to struggle, we really can’t say, but finally having Fielder and Victor Martinez both going well at the same time in the four and five spots (with Cabrera in front of them) would be a sight to behold.