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Entries in Prince Fielder (25)


Brewers Sign A-Ram

Sans Prince Fielder, the Brewers will to struggle to stay among the National League's top five clubs in run scoring (and that's to say nothing of Ryan Braun's possible 50-game suspension for a failed PED test). Bringing in Aramis Ramirez on a three-year deal reportedly worth $36 million won't compensate, but A-Ram is at least a sizeable upgrade over what Milwaukee got from its third basemen in 2010 (which is to say, nothing).

In 2011, Brewers third basemen -- primarily now-Pirate Casey McGehee -- batted .231/.290/.345 and had a .279 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). Ramirez, meanwhile, is coming off a resurgent season during which he hit .306/.361/.510, with a .371 wOBA. A-Ram struggled with injuries and bad luck in balls put in play in 2010, slashing just .241/.294/.452 with a .245 BABIP while battling thumb and triceps ailments. With better health and bat control this past year, Ramirez made more contact on inside pitches and did a better job covering the outer third as well. Check out his contact rate by pitch location in 2010 and 2011:

Ramirez' contact rate by pitch location, 2010

Ramirez's contact rate by pitch location, 2011

Ramirez's missed 23 percent of the pitches he swung at in 2010, but that fell to 18 percent in 2011. Consequently, his strikeout rate dipped from 17.8% to 11%. His BABIP bumped back up to .308, due mostly to more hits on inside pitches and those straddling the outside corner of the plate: 

Ramirez's in-play average by pitch location, 2010

Ramirez's in-play average by pitch location, 2011

Ramirez is an aggressive hitter who has never walked much, he's 33 years old and he's one of the worst defensive third basemen in the game, having cost his club 19 runs over the past three years according to Ultimate Zone Rating. But he's still serious power threat who will be much better than McGehee was in 2011 and is projected to be in 2012 (a .313 wOBA, according to The Hardball Times' Oliver). Ramirez joins a revamped Brew Crew infield with just one incumbent starter in Rickie Weeks. How does the new-look infield compare offensively to last year's version? Here's a look at last year's starters, and 2012 Oliver projections for Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Weeks and Mat Gamel:

Gamel, 27, is coming off a .310/.372/.540 season at Triple-A Nashville, but he's obviously no Fielder. Over the course of a full season, the offensive difference between what Fielder did last year and what Gamel is forecast to hit is a staggering 45 runs. However, upgrading from McGehee '11 to A-Ram in '12 is projected to be about a 35 run improvement. In other words, they lose 10 runs, or about a win, in offensive value compared to 2011. Of course, losing Braun for nearly a third of the season could easily cost the Brewers another 1-2 wins on offense.

Ramirez probably shouldn't be playing third base these days and his bat doesn't make up for Fielder's departure. That said, he gives them another quality hitter to at least partially ease the loss and make another run at the NL Central title before Zack Greinke hits the open market. It's hardly a coup, but it's a decent short-term solution for a team whose window of contention may soon close.


Big Veggie Trims His K Rate

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:

 League average contact rate for LHBs 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:

Fielder's two-strike contact rate, 2010Overall, 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's two-strike contact rate, 2011Fielder 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.


Two-Strike Survivors

When a hitter gets two strikes against him, odds are he's toast. The league average Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) with two strikes is just .236, compared to .314 overall in 2011. Put another way, a hitter turns into a Tsuyoshi Nishioka clone when in the pitcher's clutches. But some batters have managed to wiggle out of those two-strike situations pretty often. Here's a look at the 10 batters with the highest wOBAs in two-strike counts:

1. Mike Napoli, .386

2. David Ortiz, .367

3. Jose Bautista, .348

4. Miguel Cabrera, .348

5. Jacoby Ellsbury, .339

6. Marco Scutaro, .337

7. Prince Fielder, .336

8. Carlos Lee, .335

9. Troy Tulowitzki, .322

10. Curtis Granderson, .322

 Not surprisingly, the best two-strike hitters list includes some of the best hitters in the game overall. Granderson has gone deep a major league-leading 20 times in two-strike counts this season. Bautista (14), Ortiz (13), Napoli (11), Cabrera (11) and Ellsbury (10) have also hit double-digit homers with two strikes.

If there's a common thread among these guys, it's that they do a better job than most of not chasing pitches off the plate. When hitters have less than two strikes against them, they're fairly selective:

League average swing rate by pitch location with less than two strikes

Batters swing about 39 percent of the time overall with less than two strikes, chasing 22 percent of pitches out of the zone. With two strikes, however....


League average swing rate by pitch location with two strikes

..Hitters swing 61 percent of the time, including 39 percent of the time on out-of-zone pitches. But, with the exception of Fielder, our two-strike survivors have chase rates below the league average:

Napoli: 38% chase rate with 2 strikes

Ortiz: 37%

Bautista: 35%

Cabrera: 36%

Ellsbury: 25%

Scutaro: 38%

Fielder: 48%

Lee: 37%

Tulowitzki: 34%

Granderson: 40%

As is the case in other counts, it appears that one of the keys to success with two strikes is learning to lay off pitches at the eyes and the ankles. Or, be Prince Fielder. Either will work just fine.

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