Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Mariners Should Avoid Prince Fielder

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion that the Mariners have interest or should have interest in signing Prince Fielder. The rumors seem a little more believable when you take in account that Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik was responsible bringing Prince Fielder to Milwaukee in the first place. I have just one piece of commentary in response to the rumors and musings: Don't do it Jack.

Yes, Prince has been a great player the last few years amassing a fairly good amount of WAR; 23.5 WAR over the last seven years to be exact. That averages out to about 3.35 WAR per year. If you throw out his first year where he only played 39 games, the average WAR jumps to 3.9 per year, which is pretty good but not superstar level.  

A further examination of Prince's numbers presents a giant red flag from a risk perspective. In 2006, he only amassed 1.3 WAR followed by 5.1 WAR. In 2008, he only accumulated 1.7 WAR and followed that by a 6.4 WAR breakout season which he then followed up by dropping back down to a human 3.4 WAR year. In 2011 his contract year, Prince put up great numbers on his way to a 5.5 WAR season. So what can we infer from Prince's numbers as they are segmented? It appears that as player, he is a volatile asset. 33.3% of seasons he has played, Prince has put up a WAR that is less than 2. Additionally, after each season he eclipsed 5 WAR, Prince has produced a WAR under 4. Given the pattern demonstrated so far, it seems very likely that Prince will produce a WAR over 4 next season, especially if he changes leagues doubly so if he plays as a DH instead of a 1st baseman, as the position adjustment will adversely affect the WAR total.

Being mildly inconsistent is not the only concern that one may have. There is a premise that big bodied sluggers such as Prince tend to have their WAR decline fairly fast after their prime. To substantiate this, I offer the following examples. The first and often most cited example is that of Mo Vaughn, who went from 6.6 War in his age 30 season to just 1.9 WAR the next. Another example is probably the most accurate representation for Prince. I'm talking about one of his least favorite people, his father Cecil Fielder. Cecil was know for his mammoth power but his decline started fairly early on. In his age 27 season, Cecil put up a stellar 6.8 WAR season and then the decline started, dropping to an above average 4.3 WAR the following year. That was followed by a 3.1 WAR in his age 29 season and then Cecil fell all the way to 1.6 WAR in his age 30 season.  

When one examines the data pertaining to Prince and add in the decline of large bodied sluggers to include his own father, it makes it hard to warrant a the eight year $180 Million deal he is rumored to ask. Even when you factor in the estimates that he will probably get a 6 year $120 Million deal instead, it still is enough to make a GM to reconsider. As stated before, just stay away Jack.

Edit: Per some of the comments I decided to show a chart of what would have happened if Prince would have played at Safeco Field.

Second Edit: Some people have commented about what caused the fluctuations in WAR. My research shows that it was mainly due to variations in his ISO (Isolated Power). Someone threw out some of their perceived complementary players: Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton, and Josh Hamilton. So I graphed their ISO values on a yearly basis which is found below. Additionally, I calculated the Standard Deviation of the ISO values and will include them in a table below.

Tulowitzki Standard Deviation 0.007371
Upton Standard Deviation 0.031288
Pujols Standard Deviation 0.035509
Bautista Standard Deviation 0.036062
Braun Standard Deviation 0.042517
Hamilton Standard Deviation 0.048497
Fielder Standard Deviation 0.049882

From the table, you can see that Fielder has the greatest standard deviation of the group, which shows the great variability in ISO and subsequently, WAR.
Note: This article utilizes the stat Wins Above Replacement player (WAR). This value attempts to assign a relative value to each player in the league with a replacement player being someone who is a good minor league player who really is not good enough for the majors. To put WAR into perspective, the WAR leader of hitters this year was Jacoby Ellsbury with 9.4 WAR. Notable really great players with high WAR are: Jose Bautista with a 2011 WAR of 8.3, Miguel Cabrera with 7.3 WAR, Roy Halladay with 8.2 WAR, and Justin Verlander with 7.0 WAR. Notable 0 WAR players: P Kevin Correia of the Pirates who pitched 154 innings with an ERA of 4.79, P Joe Nathan of the Twins with 44.2 innings pitched with a 4.84 ERA, Corey Patterson, and Miguel Tejada. For a better understanding of WAR, check out Fangraphs.


  1. Casey - Re: your Prince Fielder piece, for we who are baseball stats challenged would you please explain "WAR" Thanks.

  2. I updated the post to account for a discussion of WAR. I hope you find it helpful.

  3. When looking how someone will do in the present, it's absolutely stupid to note how they did 6 years ago. Why not have Griffey play centerfield again? He was pretty good six years ago, injuries excluded.

  4. If you notice, I cited that there is a fair amount of variability in Prince's performance. That is not limited to six years ago. Also, Griffey was not good six years ago, and should have never played Center Field again.

  5. Thanks for the explanation of WAR. Way above my level of comprehension though.

  6. If WAR is a little over your head try thinking of it as an ordinal ranking system. People with higher WAR had better seasons than those with lower ranking. WAR just provides a context where each player can be compared against another. I strongly suggest going to and looking at the player rankings page. In a couple of minutes of examination it will all make sense.

  7. I enjoyed and appreciated the advice to Jack Z, and I suspect you are right on.

    On the other hand, I suspect fear has nothing to do with the failure of the Zags to play the Dogs, or vice versa. Unfortunately, college (big time type)is all about the money. When it pays adequately, the games will be scheduled.

  8. I don't understand your spray chart. According to the spray chart that you've provided, the difference between 405 feet and 400 feet at the top is roughly the distance from the pitching mound to home plate. I suspect you overlaid a larger image of safeco field after lining up the pitchers mound and forgot to shrink the Safeco Field chart to be measurably accurate.

  9. I tried to approximate it. Mainly, I wanted to demonstrate the difference in the power alley in left center field and visually display the significant disparity between the two so that the viewer can tell that Safeco would take away what looks to be seven home runs.

  10. But it would gain home runs on both the left side and the far right side (if the chart was accurate, you would see the home runs on the left side, but since it's enlarged it's misleading). Also, players tend to pull more when they get older, which according to the chart would make him better.

    The left/center field area would kill anyone's home runs, including the most powerful hitter in baseball. Your chart makes it look like most of his home runs would die, but if they were correctly overlayed, you'd find that only about 5 to 7 of his homeruns would die, but an additional 2 to 4 home runs would be added from the left field and right field lines. Overall, he'd lose only about 3 home runs total - not bad at all for a player moving from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park.

    Fix the chart and you'll see the difference is not very much. It's the exaggerated size of Safeco field that makes this look worse than it is.