Forty games is the traditional benchmark of when teams know what they are and what they have.
A quarter of the Rangers’ season is over and trends pretty much reveal themselves to be reality, not slumps.
Some trends are more worrisome than others. Take the case of Prince Fielder.
Fielder’s season is not just underwhelming or disappointing, it’s troubling. As in, Is he healthy? troubling.
If you recall, in his first year with Texas, Fielder came out of the gate struggling mightily.
Here was a guy who racked up more than one hundred runs batted in during six of his seven prior seasons, and twenty-five or more home runs per season in his eight prior years.
But suddenly, it was 2014 and his production vanished like common sense in Washington.
After 150 at-bats, he had just three home runs and sixteen RBIs.
Compared to the numbers he had been putting up, it was shocking:
In the eight seasons before coming to Texas, Fielder averaged one HR for every 16.5 ABs, and one RBI for every 5.4 ABs.
His first Texas season?
One HR for every 50 ABs, and one RBI for every 9.4 ABs. He hit a home run a third as often and drove in runs half as efficiently.
It wasn’t that he lost his skills, though. It turns out, he was severely injured. Spinal-fusion-surgery injured. If-the-surgery-doesn’t-go-well-he-will-never-play-again injured.
But Fielder came back healthy in 2015, and came back strong: twenty-three home runs, ninety-eight runs batted in.
While his power efficiency dipped somewhat from his 2006 to 2013 prime, it wasn’t catastrophic. One HR every 26.7 at-bats instead of every 16.5. But he made up for it because his run generation was roughly identical, one RBI every 7.1 at-bats rather than every 5.4.
So there was no real cause for alarm. He was driving in runs.
But this year, when you look at his numbers, something alarming stands out.
Prince Fielder is back to 2014. Back to when he was hurt. Back to when he needed major spinal fusion surgery. Back to when he couldn’t physically lift his arms.
Right now Prince is just one at-bat shy of where he ended his 2014 season. In fact, if Prince hits a home run in his next at-bat he will be exactly where he was in 2014—three home runs in 150 at-bats. The exact same as back when he was hurt. When he needed major spinal surgery. (He has just five more runs batted in now than he had at this point in 2014).
A guy’s skills don’t just go from Prince Fielder to Leonys Martin overnight. Something more must be happening here.
Maybe what’s wrong with Fielder is that something’s wrong with Fielder.
Colby Lewis (2-0, 3.12) vs. Lance McCullers (0-0, 9.64)
Game time: 7:10
How the Rangers hit against McCullers.
How the Astros hit against Lewis.