One thing Miguel Cabrera won’t miss about Prince Fielder: protection

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Upon hearing the news that the Tigers had traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera appeared to be mourning a bit on Twitter, posting a collection of pictures involving the two during their time in Detroit. It was a humanizing moment for a player who has given us no choice over the last two years but to think of him as an unstoppable hitting machine.

Many, particularly those in the national baseball media, wonder how Cabrera will fare without Fielder behind him to protect him.

But as David Schoenfield illustrates in his column at ESPN Sweet Spot, there just isn’t any evidence that Fielder actually provided any lineup protection to Cabrera. He notes that Cabrera hasn’t seen many more fastballs nor many more pitches in the strike zone, at least at a statistically significant level. Additionally, while Victor Martinez may not have Fielder’s power potential, he is no slouch.

The same idea pops up whenever two great hitters either come together or go their separate ways. I dug into the numbers back in September 2011 to see if Hunter Pence was actually providing Ryan Howard with any protection for the Phillies. Like Schoenfield, there just wasn’t any evidence.

Based on the numbers we’ve been able to compile over the years, lineup protection either doesn’t exist or the effect is so small as to be indistinguishable from random variation.

Giants making Brandon Belt available

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Giants have made first baseman Brandon Belt available in a trade and says that several teams have expressed interest in him.

Which is kind of weird, really.

Belt turns 31 early next season. He hit .253/.342/.414 with 14 homers over 112 games last year due to a knee injury and time lost to an appendectomy. He has a history of concussions and has averaged only 115 games over the last five seasons. Oh, and makes $48 million over the next three years.

Yes, he could be a very useful player if healthy, but taking on that kind of money, even a part of that money, when many very affordable first base/DH options are out there on the market makes little sense to me. Matt Adams. Justin Bour. Lucas Duda. As good as Belt? No, I don’t think so. But way cheaper and requiring less of a commitment.

But hey, rumors are rumors. Let a thousand flowers bloom.