EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part Four in a week-long series looking at Prince Fielder's tenure as a Brewer from every possible angle. Today's guest poster is longtime friend of the site Larry Granillo of Baseball Prospectus, one of the internet's most creative baseball writers and the man behind the Tater Trot Tracker.
Prince Fielder, Home Run Hitter
This post is supposed to be about my favorite Prince Fielder home runs. There have been plenty of big home runs from Prince that I'll remember for a long time. His falling-onto-the-plate blast in Atlanta that got him beaned, his three home run performance this past September, his home run in what everyone was sure was his final game at Miller Park in 2010 - but they all fall to the wayside when compared to one home run. We'll get to that in a minute...
How do I put this nicely? Prince Fielder, the second-most prolific slugger in Brewers history, is a very … distinct man. His talent, his personality, his body-type and stature - everything about Prince makes him stand out from the boring and/or unassuming players who make up 95% of rosters these days. Anyone who watches the Brewers on a regular basis can tell you that, but, what's more, anyone who tunes in to MLB Network to see highlights of Prince's home runs would be able to say the same thing. All that is Prince Fielder is carried in his home run swing.
If a poll were taken and baseball fans were asked to describe Prince Fielder in a few words, what would they say? Chances are the responses would look something like this: fat, temperamental, strong. There might be a "funny" or "fatherly" in there if the people polled were more familiar with the Brewers, but those three words would be the most common. Fat. Temperamental. Strong.
They're valid, of course. As the son of Cecil Fielder - a not-altogether-small man himself (who could also hit a lot of home runs) - Prince has little choice in his body type. But he makes the most of it. He crowds the plate and doesn't bat an eye at hit-by-pitches. And, when he swings, he uncoils all that weight into one of the most violent swings you'll ever see, routinely falling out of his shoes while watching the ball sail 400+ feet. Of course, he sometimes needs to only shift his weight forward at the right moment to launch the ball over the fence - such is the benefit of the Fielder physique.
Prince's temper, on the other hand, isn't always so beneficial. Just ask Guillermo Mota or Manny Parra. Yes, Fielder can let himself get too upset at things on the field and, yes, he does seem unafraid to express that, even in situations when he shouldn't, but those aren't the only emotions Prince shows. Just watch how excited he got after a Rickie Weeks bomb in September. Prince Fielder is just as likely to be overly-exuberant in the dugout and on the field as he is to be upset. That may not translate well to home runs, but it certainly shows through among his teammates and at the plate.
And strength is really what Prince Fielder is all about. His 230 career home runs in 4,210 plate appearances puts him second all-time in Brewers' home runs and HR/PA behind Robin Yount and Richie Sexson. Fielder is also third all-time for the Brewers in career walks, but we all know it was the awe-inspiring power that fans crowded Miller Park to see. According to Hit Tracker Online, Prince had the longest true distance home run of the season, crushing a 486-foot shot to right field in Houston's Minute Maid Park. He also had the 8th longest home run of the season. Every time Prince Fielder steps to the plate, he is a threat to leave the ballpark, and everyone in the stadium knows it (especially Prince!).
The perfect example of Prince Fielder as a player, as a slugger, as a teammate - as a Milwaukee Brewer - is almost too obvious. On September 6, 2009, the Brewers were hosting the San Francisco Giants. It was a great game: Milwaukee scored one run in the sixth to tie it up at 1-1 only a few minutes after turning a 5-4-3 triple play. In the bottom of the 12th, with no one on base, Prince faced Merkin Valdez. On the second pitch of the at-bat, this happened:
It was one of Prince's less-violent swings, as he gracefully put the weight of his body behind the bat, connecting for a no-doubter. The ball landed in the first few rows of the rightfield bleachers and, as it did so, Prince's excitement showed through. Arms raised in the air, a smile on his face. Soon, he was pointing back at his teammates while trotting home, the typical air of walkoff excitement buzzing through Miller Park. As Prince reached home plate, his teammates surrounding the base, Prince jumped. Nothing unusual about that - players jump into a crowd of their teammates on walkoff hits all the time. As he landed, though, Prince stretched his arms up like he were a gymnast sticking a landing while his teammates tumbled to the ground, as if being forced to the ground by the force of his being. Everyone in Miller Park not wearing a Giants jersey loved it.
Some people call it the bomb celebration. Some call it the bowling pin celebration. With its power, its joyous camaraderie, its ability to be misunderstood outside of Milwaukee, and with Prince Fielder at the center of it all, both literally and figuratively, I call it the greatest example ever of a Prince Fielder home run - and the perfect example of why we'll miss him.
Thanks again to Larry for sharing this post. Be sure to check out more of his work at Baseball Prospectus.