What Prince Fielder Must Do to Have an Even Bigger 2013 Than Miguel Cabrera
Prince Fielder is a perfectionist.
Even after the 28-year-old first baseman earned a career high last year with a .313 average in his first season with the Detroit Tigers, Fielder was disappointed with his performance overall.
Fielder finished the regular season with 30 home runs and 108 RBI, which were eight and 12 less, respectively, than he put up in 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Fielder's season was by no means mediocre, but for the enormous pressure that he puts on himself and the expectations he has for himself, he finished the season with a bad taste in his mouth.
Meanwhile, Fielder's best friend in the clubhouse and portly partner in crime, Miguel Cabrera, had the season of his life.
Cabrera averaged .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI, winning the American League Triple Crown and AL MVP.
While Fielder likes and respects Cabrera as much as anyone, make no mistake about it, he wants to be the alpha male in the lineup. As much as he loves Cabrera, he wants to perform just as well as the reigning AL MVP, if not better.
Here are the five things that Fielder must do in 2013 to have an even bigger year than Cabrera:
Continue to Hit for Average
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Fielder had the best season of his life last year, average-wise, and needs to continue to get on base consistently in 2013.
His .313 average was the first time in his eight-year career that Fielder has batted above .300. It was 14 points higher than he averaged in 2011, and 52 points higher than he averaged in 2010.
When Fielder gets base hits consistently, it makes things so much easier in several different ways.
If pitchers are afraid of Fielder being a complete hitter, it becomes exponentially more difficult to face him, which in turn makes it easier for the players around him in the Tigers lineup.
Have Victor Martinez Perform Well
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It's no coincidence that the last two players that Fielder has hit behind have been named league MVP.
In 2011 with the Brewers, Fielder batted behind Ryan Braun, who was the NL MVP, and last season, Fielder spent all season hitting behind Cabrera, the AL MVP, and it's because of the protection that Fielder provided.
Victor Martinez, who will bat behind Fielder in 2013, missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL, but has set a precedent of greatness in his career that he expects to return to this year.
Before his injury last year, he averaged .330 with 12 home runs and 103 RBI in 145 games in 2011, his first season with the Tigers.
Martinez is a career .303 hitter, who has averaged 20 home runs and 104 RBI over his 10-year career.
The 34-year-old designated hitter will provide much better protection than the revolving door of No. 5 hitters that hit behind Fielder last season.
Fielder batted fourth in all 162 games last season, averaging .312 with 30 homers and 108 RBI, and the players who batted fifth last year averaged just .252 with 18 home runs and 78 RBI combined in that slot.
Martinez will put up better numbers than that, and protect Fielder much better than that as well.
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Fielder is as much of an iron man as there is in the major leagues today.
The 275-pounder hasn't missed a single game in the last two seasons, and since his first full year in the Major League in 2006, Fielder has played 1,121 out of a possible 1,133 games.
Fielder has now gotten used to everything that comes with being in Detroit, as far as dealing with new teammates and coaches, as well as getting used to AL pitching and if he stays healthy, he should be able to improve on his performance from a year ago.
The former vegetarian is a true competitor who doesn't accept days off, and somehow manages to stay off the disabled list, and if he is fortunate enough to play 157-plus games for the eighth consecutive season in 2013, the sky's the limit.
Improve Power Numbers
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As far as power numbers go, 2012 was an off year for Fielder.
He had the fewest home runs since his first full MLB season in 2006, and has had four seasons since in which he earned more RBI.
Fielder became a better complete hitter last season, earning the best average of his career, but his bread and butter is still hitting the ball over the fence, and driving in runs.
Being a better complete hitter will make it easier for him to put up power numbers because pitchers will have to focus on everything he brings to the table, which will make it a lot harder to get him out.
Produce in the Playoffs
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One of the biggest knocks on Fielder over his career is that when the bright lights of the playoffs turn on, Fielder's game turns off.
Fielder averaged .173 with just one home run and three RBI in 52 postseason at-bats last season, and in three playoff appearances in his career, the eight-year veteran has batted just .183 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 28 games.
In the AL Division Series against the Oakland Athletics last season, Fielder averaged .190 with one home run and two RBI in the five-game series win.
Against the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series, Fielder performed a little better with a .235 average, but failed to hit a long ball or earn an RBI, and against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, Fielder broke down completely, averaging just .071 with no power numbers to speak of.
For Fielder to be on the same level as Cabrera, he'll need to raise his game when the lights are brightest.
Cabrera has averaged .276, with 10 home runs and 30 RBI in 41 games during three postseason appearances, and to be in same conversation as Cabrera in terms of greatness, Fielder will need a similar performance if the Tigers make the playoffs again in 2013.