As many of you know, FanGraphs keeps track of a baserunning statistic. It is not a complete baserunning statistic, as it ignores successful and unsuccessful steal attempts, but those are accounted for elsewhere in the site's wOBA formula. The baserunning metric - colorfully known as Base Running - takes the other things into account. Advances from first to third, advances from second to home, advances on grounders and flies, and so on.
Prince Fielder became a full-time player in 2006. Since 2006, Fielder has posted the second-worst Base Running total in baseball, ahead of just Paul Konerko. He ranks just behind guys like Jorge Posada, Ryan Howard and Carlos Lee. (The highest total over that span, if you're curious, belongs to Chone Figgins! Chone Figgins!)
This probably doesn't come as much of a surprise, what with Prince Fielder being Prince Fielder. Guy's big. Big guys usually don't move very well. Fielder is not particularly fleet of foot; rather, he could almost be considered a particular fleet, as I make a joke I'm already embarrassed over making. But baserunning's one of those things people tend to forget about, unless it's one of a player's strengths. People mentally give players credit for good baserunning, but they often fail to ding players for bad baserunning. It matters, albeit not a ton.
It's worth noting that, also since 2006, Fielder has posted baseball's 23rd-worst UZR, out of 382 players. He's posted the sixth-worst Defensive Runs Saved, and he's posted the absolute worst whatever TZL is. These are counting stats, so the rankings aren't quite fair, and I'm also aware of the many problems with defensive statistics, but then I trust defensive statistics a hell of a lot more for infielders than for outfielders. And I doubt that anybody would argue that Prince Fielder is not a below-average defensive first baseman.
Now, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not trying to bias anybody against Prince Fielder. Prince Fielder is an absolutely outstanding baseball player, and as long as we're going back to 2006, then, since 2006, Fielder has been worth more runs at the plate than Adrian Gonzalez and Lance Berkman. He's been an incredible hitter, and he's only 27 years old. Players like him don't hit free agency very often.
But if we're going to talk about Prince Fielder, and we're obviously going to talk about Prince Fielder, we need to have a proper understanding of what Prince Fielder is. Get rid of labels. Throw out all labels. Hell, get rid of the name, too. We have a player who is a fairly young player, and one of the very best hitters in baseball, who loses some value for being a first baseman, for not being a very good first baseman, and for not being much of a baserunner. He is a very good player, in the probable prime of his career, but objectively he seems to fall shy of being a superstar, even if subjectively he does not.
We all love the idea of having a bat like Fielder's in the middle of the Alex Rodriguez as a free agent. He's not even close. He's not a guy worth pursuing at all costs. He's a guy worth pursuing to a point, where that point could very well end up being south of what he gets.' lineup, especially after the stretch of seasons we've sat through. There is not a single Mariners fan on the planet to whom Fielder's production doesn't appeal. Dingers, anybody, just some dingers. But it's important to...well actually I guess it isn't important, since we're all just fans, but it would be nice for people to remain reasonable about what Fielder would mean for this team. Fielder as a free agent isn't
Of course, if the Mariners end up signing Fielder, and if they end up signing Fielder for more than what a lot of people would've liked, that wouldn't be the end of the world. Far from it. Then the Mariners would have Prince Fielder! And no single contract can actually cripple a team. In the event that the Mariners signed Fielder, and then Fielder eventually went south, the team would be impeded, but by no means crippled. But the bigger point is, understand what Prince Fielder is. Understand the target. I mean, with how often we're all talking about him, you might as well, right?