During the last couple seasons Prince Fielder has backed up an MVP in both leagues. He’s cashed on in royally as a cleanup hitter. His career, if judged by appearance and statistics, basically say that this guy is, and should forever more be, batting in the fourth spot of the lineup. Yet with Miguel Cabrera gone, Fielder may just be the best hitter for the 3-spot on the Tigers’ roster.
With Fielder’s struggles this season, I wonder if it would be a good idea for him to keep that lineup spot when Cabrera returns.
This season, despite his gaudy RBI numbers, has been frustrating for everyone involved. One can only speculate that the divorce Fielder and his wife are going through are contributing in ways a lot of us will never understand, further piling on to his troubles. His walks are down. His strikeouts are up. His ISO is the lowest it’s been since his cup of coffee with the Brewers in 2005. But the thing is, he’s been a cleanup hitter for nearly his entire career, only spending 154 games in the 3-spot. Why not have Cabrera bat behind him? It’s not like batting Cabrera cleanup is a novel idea: Leyland did it from ’08-’11. He’s also the best hitter in the cosmos currently, and it’s not like he hit horribly with Victor Martinez protecting him in ’12 (OPS+ of 178, OBP of .420, and 126 RBIs led the league).
Let’s assume that this happens when Cabrera comes back. Maybe this kick-starts Fielder, and he starts having a September like he did in 2007 (11 homers, 23 runs, 22 RBIs, .478 OBP, 1.212), when he spent a third of the season batting third. Couple that with the 2014 AL MVP, and a red-hot Vic Martinez, and we’re looking at a middle of the lineup that could crush its way to a prime home-field position into the playoffs, and matchup problems for opposing pitchers during a World Series run.
It’s a simple idea, sure, but it could pay huge dividends in the end.