On pace to set or tie career lows in batting average (.261), home runs (25) and runs scored (80), 2013 has not gone according to plan for Prince Fielder.
Not only is Fielder on pace for some career-low numbers, but he's also in danger of breaking some pretty impressive streaks: six consecutive 30-home run seasons and four straight years with an on-base percentage above .400.
It's fair to wonder whether Fielder's girth has begun to catch up with the 29-year-old slugger, something most people expected to happen as he hit his mid-30s, not as he sat less than 10 months away from his 30th birthday.
It's also easy to forget that Fielder, like all ballplayers, is a human being and not a machine. Things going on in players' personal lives can weigh heavily on their minds and affect their performance on the field.
Teammate Torii Hunter alluded to an off-field issue potentially impacting Fielder's performance earlier in August with comments he made on the "Ryan and Rico Show," Detroit Sports 105.1's midday program.
When asked about the story generated by Hunter's remarks, Fielder quickly said that it was a non-story: “Yeah? Well I’m gonna turn the story off. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
Clearly, everything is not fine.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Fielder filed for divorce from his wife of eight years, Chanel, on May 28.
With custody of his two sons yet to be determined and his estranged wife seeking for her legal fees to be covered—and temporary financial support—the five-time All-Star has had plenty on his mind besides baseball.
While Fielder hasn't used his personal issues as an excuse, a drop in performance coinciding with his divorce filing can't only be a coincidence:
|April 1 to May 27
|May 28 to August 24
Whether he can get back on track over the final month of the season rests entirely on Fielder's ability to put his off-field issues out of his mind for a few hours every day and deal with the task at hand, something that is easier said than done.
Detroit closes out the season with 13 games against losing teams: the Mariners, Marlins, Twins and White Sox.
While Fielder has only hit a combined .258 against Chicago, Minnesota and Seattle this season, I believe he will return to his MVP-caliber performance of years past down the stretch—and carry that into the playoffs.
Odds of Fielder Returning to Dominance: 10-to-1