When the Detroit Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214 million contract in 2012, October was on their minds.
In the two years Fielder has been in Detroit, the Tigers have reached the World Series and the ALCS. The problem is, once the calendar flips to October, Detroit has found itself making a deep playoff run in spite of Fielder, not because of him.
The regular season has been kind to Fielder in his first two seasons in a Tigers uniform. He posted back-to-back 100 RBI seasons and has been a great 1-2 punch with Miguel Cabrera. Fielder has shown to be durable, playing in 162 games for his second straight campaign in Detroit.
However, in the playoffs, Fielder isn’t quite the MVP candidate he shows to be in the regular season. He has had a couple of decent series vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks while with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 and with the Tigers when they knocked out the Oakland Athletics in this year’s ALDS for the second season in a row.
He has established himself as a strikeout candidate, and it shows in the postseason, as he has been sent down on strikes 32 times in 144 postseason at-bats. In his career in the playoffs, Fielder is batting just .194, and while the long ball isn’t everything, Prince has gone deep just once in a Tigers uniform in the postseason, that being in the 2012 ALDS against the A’s.
Perhaps the thing that most sticks out like a sore thumb for Fielder in the playoffs is his performance in the 2012 World Series and not in a good way. He batted just .071, going 1 for 14 as the Tigers got swept by the San Francisco Giants. Everything was put in place at that point. World Series was on Detroit’s mind when they got him and they went there the first year of his contract, and while it would be grotesquely unfair to put all the blame on Fielder, he certainly is one of the reasons why last year’s Fall Classic turned out the way it did.
Fielder wasn’t too much better in this year’s ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. He batted .182 and struck out 5 times in 22 at-bats as Detroit could not successfully defend its AL crown. He did not drive in a run the entire postseason.
He absolutely has what it takes to break through in the playoffs. People may say whatever they wish about Alex Rodriguez, but one thing they cannot take away from him is his World Series ring with the New York Yankees in 2009.
The reason A-Rod has that ring is because he finally broke through that year after years of playoff frustration. His bat came alive in that postseason as he drove in six runs each in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series. He also hit six home runs in those playoffs and batted .455 and .429 in the ALDS and ALCS, respectively. It wasn’t the first time he played well in the playoffs, but was an integral part of the Yankees’ 27th championship.
Should the Tigers win the World Series during Fielder’s time there, his coming out very well could be a big reason why.
The good news for the Tigers and for Fielder is there are 7 years left on the contract and he is about to reach his prime. However, if Fielder continues his postseason woes and the Tigers don’t win a fifth championship, they’ll have given a mammoth contract to a regular season performer who helps them get to the playoffs, but once there, they fall short.
2014 could be the ‘third times the charm’ for Fielder, as he definitely has some critics to silence.