With a 12-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Six of the NLCS, Prince Fielder may well have played his last game in Milwaukee. The 27-year-old free-agent-to-be figures to be looking for a contract that takes him into his mid-thirties and pays him upwards of $150-$200 million; Adrian Gonzalez's seven-year, $154 million pact with Boston this past April will no doubt be brought up by Fielder's agent, Scott Boras.
Fielder is fresh off arguably the best season of his career, once you account for the decline in run-scoring across the game in 2011. The Big Veggie batted .299, with a .415 on-base percentage and a .566 slugging percentage. In addition to drawing bunches of walks and working Bernie Brewer ragged on Miller Park's outfield slide, the lefty slugger cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 15.3 percent of his plate appearances, well below his 19.1 percent average from 2005-2010.
He fanned less by connecting more often on low pitches swung at with two strikes. First, here's the league average contact rate for lefty hitters with two strikes:
Lefty batters miss 21-22 percent of the time that they swing with two strikes. Now, here's Fielder's two-strike contact rate in 2010:
Overall, Fielder swung and missed about 28 percent of the time with two strikes in 2010. He put the bat on the ball frequently on pitches above his considerable belt, but he swung through lots of pitches thrown at the knees. That changed in 2011, however:
Fielder cut his two-strike miss percentage to 22 percent this past year. That helped make him one of the best two-strike hitters in the game. Prince batted .249/.347/.447 when he didn't have a strike to spare in 2011, compared to the pitcher-like .180/.247/.274 league average in such situations.
While Fielder's price tag and girth could give teams pause, he's still in the prime years of his career and enters free agency with a highly impressive hitting dossier. With a 143 career OPS+, Prince ranks in the top 50 all-time among batters through their age-27 season. If he retains his two-strike contact boost, Fielder could be even more of a threat at the plate.