Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder tosses his bat after drawing a walk in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Could the Tigers signing Vladimir Guerrero mean better things for Prince Fielder? No, probably not.
There's not a whole lot going on in Major League Baseball at the moment, which means you've probably heard that Vladimir Guerrero has been granted his release from the Toronto Blue Jays. Guerrero was attempting a comeback, and he wanted to be in the majors by now, but the Blue Jays didn't have much use for him, so they've freed him to pursue other opportunities. Guerrero wants to play in the bigs, presumably as a designated hitter since he runs like somebody walks the day after completing their first marathon.
Would Prince Fielder get more pitches to hit if Vladimir Guerrero, not Delmon Young, were hitting behind him? The answer may be yes.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 12, 2012
Vlad and Delmon are (sort of) similar. They swing at everything. They do not walk. But who will scare the opposing managers more?— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 12, 2012
I don't like to do this very often, but now I will respond to Morosi's tweets. It's fine as long as it doesn't become a habit, right? I will try to prevent this from becoming a habit.
Response No. 1
The answer may be yes! The answer may be no. Would Ben Revere slug 20 home runs if he batted right-handed and ran up to each pitch like Happy Gilmore? The answer may be yes!
Response No. 2
Aren't we beyond believing in lineup protection theory? Read this article. Now you don't have to bother reading the rest of this article.
Response No. 3
Vladimir Guerrero would probably scare opposing managers a little more than Delmon Young, because people can't shake the lingering memory of what Guerrero once was. But opposing managers would also be fully aware of Guerrero's advanced age, declining numbers, and extended joblessness. There's not a person in the world who thinks Guerrero is still one of the most fearsome hitters on the planet, save for maybe Guerrero himself.
Response No. 4
Guerrero spent last season with the Baltimore Orioles. He mostly hit behind Adam Jones or Nick Markakis. When Jones was directly in front of Guerrero, he saw 59 percent fastballs, and 17 percent "easy strikes", defined as pitches between two and three feet in height, and within six inches of the center of the plate. When Jones wasn't directly in front of Guerrero, he saw 58 percent fastballs and 18 percent easy strikes.
When Markakis was directly in front of Guerrero, he saw 65 percent fastballs and 15 percent easy strikes. When Markakis wasn't directly in front of Guerrero, he saw 66 percent fastballs and 18 percent easy strikes.
We don't see much of a difference anywhere in there. Jones was often in front of Mark Reynolds when he wasn't in front of Guerrero. Markakis was often in front of Jones or Derrek Lee when he wasn't in front of Guerrero. There's just ... look, there's not a lot here. And now Guerrero is a year older and a year less intimidating.
Response No. 5
Miguel Cabrera has Prince Fielder batting behind him all the time now. He's seeing just about exactly the same rate of fastballs. He's seeing a few more pitches in the zone, but not more than he did in 2008 or 2009. He's gotten as many first-pitch strikes.
Response No. 6
Prince Fielder is getting intentionally walked far less often than he did in 2011. He's seeing as many fastballs, and he's seeing more pitches in the strike zone than he ever has in his career. It's not like there's evidence that pitchers are working around Fielder more than before. And pitchers will always work around Fielder a little, because he is Prince Fielder and Prince Fielder is incredibly dangerous.
Response No. 7
Fielder has a 144 OPS+ and is slugging .509. Far more important than Fielder's lineup protection is almost literally every single other thing about the Tigers. Fielder is not a or the problem, at least not when he's hitting.
Response No. 8
So the idea is that pitchers would be more aggressive going after Prince Fielder because they're afraid of having to face Vladimir Guerrero?
Lineup protection isn't a thing, at least not to such a degree that it shows up as meaningful in the research. Even if lineup protection were a thing, you wouldn't expect it to be provided by the leathery carcass of Vladimir Guerrero, who was an outstanding hitter a long time ago. The Tigers signing Guerrero would probably not mean better things for Prince Fielder. Maybe Guerrero would be an upgrade on Young, and that's a separate matter to discuss, but any upgrade would be a small one, and in short, Vladimir Guerrero probably isn't the answer to what ails Detroit. Vladimir Guerrero probably isn't the answer to what's ailing anyone.