Regarding Prince and Cecil
In the latest of a flurry of retirement announcements, we’ve learned that Prince Fielder can no longer physically play major league baseball: he has had two spinal fusions, and that is the Doctor’s advice (ESPN story). Given his physique (5’11”, 275 pounds), I think most fans knew he wouldn’t play until he was 40 (Bartolo Colon’s freakishness aside). But at age 32, for me this was definitely a surprisingly early retirement.
Interestingly, some aspects of Prince’s career statistics are remarkably similar to his dad’s, Cecil Fielder, who played from 1985-1998 (actually mostly 1990-1998, as Cecil struggled a bit in the majors, went to Japan, and then returned to MLB as a fearsome slugger). Most strikingly, they both ended their MLB careers with exactly 319 HR. That is a bizarre coincidence! They also hit 30+ HR six times each, and their RBI totals are similar, 1008 for Cecil, 1028 for Prince. Both being big men, neither were fast runners — Prince had 18 SB compared with Cecil’s paltry career total of 2. Both played a combination of 1B and DH over their careers, though Prince stayed out on the field more than Cecil: 1324/254 games compared to 905/533 games. And while out there at 1B? Yep, they both had the same Fielding Percentage of .992.
That is a lot of equal or similar numbers. But overall, I would argue Prince had the more productive career. True, Cecil led the AL in HR twice and RBI three times, while Prince only did so once each. And in those two HR-leading seasons (1990 and 1991) Cecil was the runner-up AL MVP, while Prince never got higher than 3rd in the MVP vote. And in the post season, while Cecil had less than half as many opportunities, his slash line was superior at .286/.357/.476 compared to Prince’s paltry .189/.276/.311.
But during regular season play, Prince had a .283/.382/.506 slash line compared to Cecil’s .255/.345/.482. These differences are in part because Prince hit significantly more doubles, 321 to 200, walked a bit more 847 to 693, and was certainly hit by pitch a lot more with 124 to 43 (though he also had over 900 additional plate appearances).
All of this means Prince’s OPS+ of 134 is significantly higher than Cecil’s 119. Cecil also struckout more often, 1316 to 1155 (and again did that in about 900 fewer plate appearances). Cecil was an All-Star only 3 times, while Prince got that honor six times. Overall WAR rating is at 23.8 for Prince and 17.1 for Cecil.
And lastly, while Cecil played 150+ games in a season only five times, Prince was quite durable for most of his big-league career. He played 157 or more games in 8 consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2013. From 2009 to 2013 he played 161 games once, and all 162 games the other four years… wow! Due to injury he only got into 42 games in 2014, but then bounced back to play 158 games in 2015. To me, this makes the end of his career so early all the more sad to see. The game will miss you Prince Fielder!