Prince Fielder hit his first home run of the season in yesterday’s 20-0 rout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, breaking a power slump that had frustrated him (and quite a few fans) to start the year. By now, a slow start to the season is probably to be expected — in each of his first four full seasons, Fielder has started the year with extended slumps before breaking out in a big way. Taking a closer look…
Fielder took over as the starting first baseman and expectations were high. Many were expecting him to be a prime Rookie of the Year candidate, and perhaps the young and still immature Fielder was putting too much pressure on himself in the early going. He went 0-for-11 to start the season, and struck out in 7 of his first 8 at-bats. The Milwaukee crowd was thankfully supportive, giving him a standing ovation when he finally broke the slump. He finished April in impressive fashion, hitting .344/.400/.552 with 5 HR and 16 RBI.
Fielder didn’t take long to hit a home run, launching a blast in the Brewers’ second game of the season. He wouldn’t homer again until Game 16, though. Despite the long drought, this April would provide his highest home run total to start the year — he hit .270/.351/.520 with 6 HR and 15 RBI.
The “Prince Needs to Go Back to Eating Meat” month — after announcing in the spring he had become a vegetarian, he didn’t hit a home run until the 15th game of the season — an especially frustrating streak since he was coming off a year in which he hit 50. He finished April hitting .250/.368/.446 with 4 HR and 20 RBI.
Last season was perhaps his slowest start yet — he hit his first home run in the 5th game of the season, but didn’t homer again until Game 17, when he hit two in an extra-innings win over Houston. Those three home runs would be all he hit in April, and he finished the month with the lowest April batting average of his career. His line for the month was .234/.384/.442, which makes it pretty clear pitchers were just pitching around him rather than giving him anything to hit.
Through the first 15 games this season, Prince is hitting .246/.377/.351, continuing the downward April trend. While he isn’t hitting, at least his approach at the plate has matured to the point where he’s not swinging at bad pitches — his OBP is still up around his career averages, so he’s still and asset in that regard.
The offense thankfully has been able to produce even with him struggling, which is probably a testament to just how hot Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Casey McGehee have been. We saw yesterday, though, just how good the offense can look if Fielder can get going, too.