FG on Fox: Prince Fielder’s Evolution

Sometimes hitters are terse about their craft. They aren’t all Joey Votto, after all. But if you can pry a few thoughts from them, you’ll still find multitudes underneath seemingly simple statements. At least, that’s what happened after a conversation I had with Prince Fielder last week.

Before a game against the Athletics on April 22nd, I pointed out to the Rangers’ slugger that he makes more contact than most power hitters. “I’m making more contact on pitches that I want to swing at,” Fielder said of maturing as a hitter. The average top-30 home run hitter since 2011 has swung and missed at nearly 11% of the pitches he’s seen. Fielder’s swinging strike rate over the same time frame is 8.7%.

But things have changed in this regard over his career. Over his first four seasons, he struck out 19% of the time and swung and missed more than 11% of the time. Over his last four seasons, he’s struck out 14.5% of the time, thanks to that reduced swinging strike rate.

Ask the slugger, and the answer why seems so simple: “Trying to be ready to hit,” he offered with a shrug before asking: “Being more selective?” His reach rates haven’t improved much, though. In the first four years of his career, he swung at 27.4% of pitches outside the zone and 69.1% of pitches inside the zone. The last four years, he’s swung at 30.4% of pitches outside the zone and 67.7% of pitches inside the zone. Strange way to become more selective.

What Fielder has done is swung less as he’s aged — down from 47-48% to around 44-45%. There’s some evidence that swinging less is good for you, even without slicing it into swinging more at pitches inside the zone and less at pitches outside the zone. The Twins are trying this approach out currently.

But let’s look at this brute force stat — swing% — on an individual level. Since 2011, there have been 233 qualified batters. Take a look at how the top 50 and bottom 50 in swing percentage have done against each over that time frame.

Read the rest on FoxSports.com.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


16 Responses to “FG on Fox: Prince Fielder’s Evolution”

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  1. RC says:

    I think there’s a theorem that you’re missing, but I can’t remember the name.

    If he swings more at pitches outside the zone now, and more at pitches inside the zone, but overall swings less, that just means hes getting less pitches over the plate, and his distribution is changing.

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  2. Goo says:

    Prince’s quotes don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

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  3. pft says:

    Whatever he is doing does not seem to be helping him. The numbers that count are awful for what he is paid. 330 SLG!!!!

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  4. Satoshi Nakamoto says:

    He is hitting weak grounders to second or into the shift between 1st and 2nd.
    Is he just loafing because he has a huge guaranteed contract for the following 6 years?

    He really has no reason to play harder than the bare minimum to ward off fans booing him.

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    • Satoshi Nakamoto says:

      Eno Sarris, can we get an article about established (not in their 1st few seasons) players and their performance following a long term contract?

      It seems so common for a player who put up huge numbers for a while to sign a big contract and then to seemingly tank, or get riddled with minor injuries.

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      • anonynous says:

        Maybe because the guys who are signing big contracts are free agents. And players often don’t reach free agency until the beginning of their decline phase?

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  5. Chris says:

    “What Fielder has done is swung less as he’s aged — down from 47-48% to around 44-45%.”

    Quotes like this make me think this is why stats guys can get a bad rap with athletes. If Eno is looking to get this answer (that he’s swinging less) from Prince, it just seems unreasonable to me that Prince would consciously realize he’s swinging at 2-3% less pitches than earlier in his career. That’s one less pitch swung at every ~14 PA..do you really expect him to be cognizant that?

    I understand he’s a professional baseball player so it might be easier to recognize..but still. If you took 100 pitches of batting practice today, then 100 pitches more tomorrow, do you really think you’d be able to recognize if you swung at two less pitches than the day before without actually counting?

    Not trying to rag on Eno specifically here, just an example of why I think some athletes just don’t take well to stats guys. The stats guys may be able to recognize tendencies/trends through the numbers, but those don’t always translate to a conscious method/change of method. This can lead to the disconnect between what the stats guys relay to players and what the players actually recognize.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Why do you think I asked Prince about that stat? I asked him a simple question — why do you think you’re making more contact as your career has gone on.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Oh I see, you’re asking what I was looking to get from him. Dunno, I’ve heard different things. Being more selective was his answer, so I looked into it. I’m not looking for an answer. I research the player to find areas of interest, get answers, and then I look at the numbers.

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  6. Patrick Thompson says:

    fox sports doens’t have anything to do with fox fake news, does it? I hate to think the small revenue generated from clicking to a fox site lines the pockets of an anti-american fascist.

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  7. Paul Clarke says:

    In the first four years of his career, he swung at 27.4% of pitches outside the zone and 69.1% of pitches inside the zone. The last four years, he’s swung at 30.4% of pitches outside the zone and 67.7% of pitches inside the zone. Strange way to become more selective.

    2005-2008 the league average O-Swing, according to BIS, was 23.5%. In 2010 it jumped to 29.3% with no effect on overall contact or swinging strike rates, and no matching jump in the Pitch F/X equivalent. In other words, BIS’s definition of the zone changed in 2010, so you can’t directly compare the figures for Prince’s first four years with those for his last four years.

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