By all accounts, the Texas Rangers are in a better spot now than they were just a year ago.
Currently, the Rangers sit in second place in the division by just a game-and-a-half and hold a 19–15 record, compared to a 14–18 record last season, six games behind the Astros for the top spot in the division and headed towards a disastrous May.
No longer is there concern about the rotation (save this shoulder issue with A.J. Griffin), there’s excitement about Yu Darvish’s return to the mound and Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara have led the Rangers’ offense with breakout starts to the month.
But there is one exception to this season of good feelings — Prince Fielder.
The now 32-year-old designated hitter has seemed to fall off the side of a cliff. He has just six hits in 38 at bats this month — a .158 ERA — two doubles, an RBI, a run scored and zero home runs. Everything that the Rangers were excited about when they made the trade for Fielder two offseasons ago has suddenly disappeared.
And with the rest of the offense clicking at the moment, it’s time to move Fielder in the lineup in order to keep the offense clicking.
It’s been hard watching Fielder struggle so far this season. He seems like a genuine, likable guy and he has the backing of his teammates. That being said, the stats are the stats and they aren’t very good no matter how you look at them. He’s batting below the Mendoza line at .192 and has just two home runs, the thing that has supposedly been his forte in his career. The only thing keeping him afloat was his ability to drive in runs, bringing in 17 runs in April, but even that has dried up.
So now Jeff Banister has to pull the trigger on moving Fielder down in the order. He needs to be moved down to the sixth or seventh spot in the order and away from a spot where he can kill early game rallies. Odor, Mazara and Adrian Beltre — the three hitters in front of Fielder — have on base percentages of .338, .353, and .333 respectively, the tops among the everyday players in the lineup. But when Fielder comes up, it’s almost a guarantee that he’ll kill the rally. He has a .290 batting average with runners in scoring position and 16 RBIs, but those came in April. And in crunch time, the seventh inning and later, Fielder struggles heavily with 11 strikeouts and two RBIs.
Now, I’m not saying he needs to be moved out of the lineup entirely for an extended period of time or that he needs to moved down to the minors. Last year Shin-Soo Choo was in nearly the same situation, but managed to break out of the slump and become a key part of the Rangers team that won the West. And there’s no reason to think that Fielder can’t do the same.
But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That’s the spot Fielder and Bannister find themselves in right now. And for the good of the team and Fielder himself, it’s time to move him lower in the order and away from the pressure spots in the lineup.