Prince Fielder needs to be a full-time designated hitter

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After the stunning news that the Tigers had signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract came another little bombshell, courtesy of CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:

prince will be the first baseman, for anyone asking. cabrera will have to change role.

FOXSports.com’s Danny Knobler, a former Tigers beat writer, made the same claim minutes later (he probably would have had it first if he didn’t bother with that pesky capitalization):

Expect the Tigers to play Prince every day at 1B, and to move Cabrera to 3B. And don’t be surprised if he’s better there than you think.

So, that’s the way it will likely be aligned at the start of the spring. Still, if the Tigers actually start the season that way, they’ll have the game’s worst infield defense and possibly the worst seen in the league in a few years. Some days, it would include three players who were moved off their current positions, only to return later:

– The Marlins stopped playing Cabrera at third base after the 2007 season.

–  The Indians shifted Jhonny Peralta from shortstop to third base in 2009 before the Tigers put him back there a year later.

– Ryan Raburn will compete with Ramon Santiago for time at second base. The Tigers originally stopped playing Raburn at second in 2008 before giving him 15 starts there in 2010 and 55 starts there last year (even though he opened the season behind Will Rhymes, Santiago, Scott Sizemore and the injured Carlos Guillen in the pecking order).

The Tigers can probably afford to start the season that way. I doubt they’ll be able to afford to finish it with such an alignment. The only reason for them to do it is if it was a condition of Fielder picking Detroit. It makes no sense for baseball reasons, not when they just lost Victor Martinez, their full-time DH, to a torn ACL. Fielder at DH, Cabrera at first base and Brandon Inge at third is the right alignment for these Tigers for now. Inge should at least flash an above average glove, and if he doesn’t hit much better than last year, a cheap third baseman can be acquired later.

And if it is a condition of Fielder’s arrival that he has to play first, then sticking Cabrera in left field and Delmon Young at DH would be a superior alternative to the other plan. Young’s a big liability in the field anyway, so the Tigers probably wouldn’t lose much defensively by going to Cabrera there.

But let’s face it: the Tigers only wanted Fielder for his bat. Shaking up the whole defense to make room for it simply doesn’t add up, and it would likely cost the team some of what it gains with his arrival.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.