It is no secret that Prince Fielder struggles in the postseason. In 23 postseason games and 97 plate appearances, his career line as a Tiger is .202 .268 .515. He has only 2 extra-base hits, while he has grounded into a double play 5 times. He has only 3 RBI, none of them taking place this year. He has struck out 17 times (18%). He has also played 3 seasons in the postseason with the Milwaukee Brewers, and his numbers aren't much better. His numbers have actually gotten worse over his 4 years and 8 series in the postseason (Milwaukee and Detroit). Not good, and we don't need to go into how much the Detroit Tigers organization is paying him for these October struggles.
Maybe he has felt too much pressure with his teammates' offensive struggles in last year's World Series and this year's ALCS. Maybe he thinks he has to be the big man in the lineup due to Miguel Cabrera's injury-related power decline. Maybe he knows Tigers fans are talking about him, and he's getting inside his own head too much. Maybe the Florida boy's numbers are cold because his big-league career in the month of October has subjected him to the climates of Detroit, Milwaukee, the Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.
Whatever the reason for his horrible performance, it's time to give him a rest. A Fielder-free lineup would involve Victor Martinez taking over at first base and Jhonny Peralta taking over Martinez's DH spot. This would allow the Tigers to get Peralta out of left field and still keep Jose Iglesias's defense at short stop (and third, practically). Victor Martinez has played first base in 93 games in his career, most of which were in Cleveland from 2006 to 2008. He has played in 11 games this season. While he might be a little rusty in the infield, his defense couldn't possibly be any sloppier or more embarrassing than Prince Fielder's. The batting order could be as follows:
1. Torii Hunter, RF
2. Cabrera, 3B
3. Martinez, 1B
4. Peralta, DH
5. Alex Avila, C
6. Omar Infante, 2B
7. Andy Dirks, LF
8. Austin Jackson, CF
9. Iglesias, SS
Of course, with Peralta batting DH, someone would have to play in left field. Andy Dirks seems like the logical option. However, I admit that his postseason numbers (albeit a small sample size) are not much better than Fielder's. He has hit .204 .246 .486 in 18 games and and 58 plate appearances as a Tiger. I would put Dirks in the 7-spot in the batting order to preserve Jim Leyland's brilliant decision of batting the speed duo of Jackson and Iglesias before the start of the order.
Another option would be Leyland's trusty go-to guy, good old Don "Donnie Baseball" Kelly. I never thought I would argue for starting Kelly over Fielder, but my frustration with Leyland's unfounded reliance on Kelly has finally been matched with Fielder's postseason play. Batting 9th, Kelly could add to the speed combination at the bottom of the order. His career postseason numbers (again, small sample size) are in line with Fielder's and Dirks's: .258 .314 .701 in 21 games and 35 plate appearances as a Tiger. If this experiment were to take place in the ALCS, Dirks and Kelly would be playing for a potential starting spot or at least plate appearances in the next round.
Prince Fielder's streak of consecutive starts is no reason to continue starting him with this kind of lackluster performance. Removing Fielder from the lineup would add speed to the base paths and defense in the outfield while maintaining similar offensive numbers. With all of this being said (IMPORTANT NOTE), I would trust Fielder more than Dirks or Kelly to break out of this postseason slump (Is it considered a slump if it's been his entire career?) and start hitting like he's getting paid to. Also, bringing him in as a pinch hitter would only add to the pressure. With two elimination games coming up in Boston, this bench-Fielder experiment would have been better two games ago. Therefore, if Leyland is to keep the current lineup, Fielder should at least drop to 7th in the batting order.
Or possibly in Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
(Cautious optimism; no hubris)