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November 29, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Figuring Fielder's Future

by Jason Collette

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Yesterday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal and others that both the Mariners and Nationals had strong interest in Prince Fielder. Frankly, anyone with money to spend should have strong interest in the big slugger unless they are petrified by the Saberhagenmetrics going on in his stat line. Odd-numbered seasons have been the superior ones for Fielder while even-numbered years have been steps back from the previous years. Looking at yearly patterns can be entertaining or unnerving depending on how much faith you put in patterns, but there is no concrete proof that any of it matters.

What can be demonstrated is how a ballpark will affect a hitter’s numbers. It seems a bit ridiculous to talk about a ballpark affecting a hitter’s power totals when that hitter hits home runs 486 feet in Houston, but park dimensions do not discriminate. According to HitTracker, Fielder had the longest home run in all of baseball in 2011 and two of the top 10 home runs by distance this past season, and he has great power to all fields.  With Fielder unlikely to return to Milwaukee, we should start looking at how a change in home address will affect Fielder’s power numbers in 2012.

Thanks to the handy tool at katron.org, it is rather simple to see how batted ball data carries over from one ballpark to the next. Simply choose the current park, choose the new park, choose the batter, and instantly see where the balls would land by distance. It is a two-dimensional measurement that does not take into account wall heights, but it gives you a way to see where batted balls would land. For some hitters, doubles become home runs while others would have their home runs find the grass instead of the bleachers.

Using the tool, here is how Fielder’s fly outs, doubles, and home runs from Miller Park would have played out at Nationals Ballpark.

While parks factors at StatCorner show that Miller Park is far more favorable for lefty homers than Nationals Park, the good news for anyone with Fielder in a keeper league is that the change in parks would appear to have a much smaller impact on Fielder individually. Just one of the home runs he hit at Miller Park in 2011 would not have left the yard in Nationals Park, though a few of those “just enough” home runs may be closer calls in 2012 should he join the Nationals.

To compare, here is how Fielder’s data would translates into Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners—another team that has been linked to Prince):

Note that five of his home runs that were hit at home would not go over the wall in Seattle, but at least one of his doubles could clear the fence. Safeco is a known suppressor of power to left-field, as Adrian Beltre can attest to. Someone like Fielder who enjoys going the other way would be facing an uphill climb trying to hit home runs to the unfriendly part of the park. A move to Seattle could have a trickle-down effect on Fielder’s power production not just because of the park effects but because the drop in overall team talent from Milwaukee to Seattle could result in a reduction of runs driven in, runs scored, or even the frequency that Fielder is pitched to by opposing managers.

Given the roster situations and the ballpark, if the Nationals and Mariners are the two most serious suitors of Fielder and his most likely destinations, it would be far better for his fantasy potential in 2012 that he go to the more desirable situation in Washington, D.C.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Prince Fielder

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