Prince Fielder provided the baseball world with monster home runs, a great personality, and perhaps one of the saddest retirement press conferences in recent history. The player between the lines was more than just home runs, however. The 5-foot-11, 275-pound first baseman was a notorious .400 on-base guy that had a knack for staying on the field.
From 2006 to 2013, Fielder played in all but 13 games, compiling a .286/.390/.528 slash line with a 141 wRC+. He also hit 283 home runs in that span, drove in 860 runs, had 265 doubles and 23.7 rWAR. Overall, he slashed .283/.382/.506 with a 133 wRC+, 319 home runs (the same as his father, Cecil Fielder), 1,028 runs batted in, 23.8 rWAR and 27.5 fWAR––rWAR measures defense through defensive runs saved (DRS), and fWAR uses ultimate zone rating (UZR). Fielder also won two Home Run Derbies, was a six-time All-Star (MVP of one) and a three-time Silver Slugger.
Fielder is one of the game’s most memorable players. You can’t tell the story of the game without him. However, does that make him a Hall of Famer despite less than appetizing counting stats? Let’s take a look.
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Fielder’s peak lasted from 2007 to 2013. During that time, he was second in the league in home runs behind future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, whom Fielder became teammates with in 2012. That seven-year peak saw Fielder slash .288/.395/.535 with a wRC+ of 145 and a wOBA of .394. Among players with at least 2,500 plate appearances in that stretch, Fielder was sixth in wRC+, sixth in OBP and seventh in wOBA.
Per 162 games, Fielder averaged just 0.1 oWAR less than Sammy Sosa for his career, despite hitting nearly 300 fewer home runs.
Even during his peak, Fielder was 25th in the league in fWAR and 32nd in rWAR. Overall, he would be dead last among Hall of Fame first basemen in fWAR. His -20.5 defensive WAR did a number on his wins above replacement as a whole. While Fielder’s offensive output was at an elite level for seven seasons, he only managed one year with an rWAR above five (only twice did he produce 5.0 or better fWAR).
Fielder also missed many major milestones to boost his resume. In 1,611 games, he managed just 1,645 hits, 319 home runs, and 321 doubles. He also managed to produce just over 1,000 runs batted in, never won an MVP award, and injuries took their toll on the first baseman, forcing him to retire in his age 32 season after his second neck surgery.
Had Prince Fielder been able to stay on the field and play six more seasons, even if only half were at an All-Star level, his case would carry much more weight. While his career was memorable and he made highlight reels with majestic home runs, the former Brewers, Tigers and Rangers’ first baseman will likely fall off the ballot after one season.
That being said, it should be considered a “Hall of Very Good” career. Fielder also is one of the great “What if?” stories in recent memory. The once iron man-like first baseman missed 197 games in his final three seasons, culminating in his retirement. Had he been able to stay healthy, one can only imagine the numbers he was capable of in Texas. It’s a shame it ended that way, but Fielder shouldn’t be forgotten because he has no Cooperstown plaque. He was great for the game of baseball and particularly great for the city of Milwaukee.
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Main Image Credit: via New York Daily News