For the past year-and-a-half or so, the Rangers trade with the Tigers for first baseman Prince Fielder looked like a complete dud.
Fielder only saw the field for 42 games last year, hitting just three home runs and batting in only 16 runs before ending his season with neck surgery. And then this year got off to a rough start. At the end of April, Fielder had only one home run, five doubles and 10 RBIs as people wondered if the Rangers had made the right move.
But since the calendar turned to May, Fielder has gone, dare I say, Josh Hamilton (pre-2012 obviously) for the Rangers. In this month, Fielder has hit eight home runs and driven in 25 RBIs while posting a .701 slugging percentage headed into Tuesday’s game at Cleveland.
And that has helped the Rangers offense, which had been incredibly stagnant to start the season, get a jump start and turn into a lineup no pitcher wants to face. Now, can he and the Rangers keep it up?
While Texas’ lineup features names like Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland and now (again) Josh Hamilton, there’s no doubt that the biggest name in the batting order is Prince Fielder. Like Hamilton in those World Series years, Fielder is the guy that is most feared in the lineup and as he goes, so will the Rangers’ offense. Need proof of that? In April the Rangers only hit 13 home runs as a team with just 67 RBIs. So far through May, they’ve just about doubled both statistical categories with 36 home runs and 122 RBIs. That’s right in line with Fielder’s splits so far.
Fielder, specifically, has had the biggest breakout this month. The question before May was whether he would hit a home run. Now the question is when won’t he hit a home run. The quick, violent and powerful swing that made him such a power hitter in Milwaukee and Detroit has finally made an appearance in Arlington, and just in the nick of time. In May, the Rangers went from a 7-14 April record to a 15-9 record this month to get within one game of .500.
Of course, Fielder has had a lot of help as well. Beltre has provide Fielder with solid back up, hitting four home runs and posting a .307 batting average to keep opposing pitchers from simply pitching around Fielder. Newcomer Delino DeShields who has come in and made himself a menace on the base paths with his speed, scoring 20 runs this month. And then there’s Hamilton who is looking to regain the success he had with the team before he signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
The key now is sustaining this success. Fielder was always dangerous, but this hot spell in May has all pitchers across the league on high alert. And this is still a 162-game season and maintaining this hot stretch for the rest of the season will be no easy task.
But at least for the moment, there’s hope for the Rangers. The offense has come to life in a big way and Fielder has been at the center of it all. And finally, the trade of Ian Kinsler for Fielder is starting to pay off.