For all the hype surrounding the lineups in Tuesday’s All-Star game, it was a lackluster offensive affair. Of the American League’s three runs — the only three runs of the game — two scored on outs. In a game featuring Joe Mauer batting eighth and Bryce Harper batting ninth, the most memorable offensive highlight came, naturally, from a sprinting Prince Fielder as he legged out a ninth-inning triple:
Sure, it was mostly because Carlos Gomez missed a dive for what would have been an incredible catch, but this is exactly what we want out of our All-Star games: the players trying hard to win but trying harder to put on a show.
It’s tempting to mock Fielder every time he attempts to put on the afterburners, but Fielder’s speed — or, at least, what he gets out of what he has — deserves respect. Between sneaky athleticism, hustle, and savvy on the basepaths, Fielder has managed a few surprising baserunning feats over his nine years in the majors.
In 2006, his rookie year, Fielder stole seven bases and was caught just twice. He passed his father Cecil’s career stolen base total — two — in 68 games. Fielder is one of 54 players to steal a base in every season from 2006 through the present. This is where the savvy comes in: pitchers don’t think they have to worry about Fielder on the bases, and then, as Jonathan Sanchez found out last season, he’s off like a flash:
Even with a good throw, Fielder stole the base thanks to a massive jump off Sanchez, who didn’t slide-step and obviously had no intention of a pickoff attempt. And, of course, even if he is slow by major league standards, he still runs for a living.
And he hustles. In an April game against the Blue Jays, Fielder beat out not just one but two throws at first because Toronto second baseman Emilio Bonifacio overestimated how long Fielder would take to get up the line.
As great a baserunning moment as his All-Star triple is, it can’t be any higher than third on Fielder’s all-time list. Why? Because Fielder has a whopping two inside-the-park home runs for his career. He’s had help, of course, but even the fastest hitters can’t get one without a major mistake from a defender.
The first came in 2007 against the Twins back in the Metrodome, where the combination of a white ball and a white ceiling made for some adventurous fly balls. Fielder hit one high in the air, and Lew Ford was just lost:
Fielder didn’t even run hard to first; he thought it was a routine flyout. Still, he circumnavigated the bases in 17.4 seconds — well slower than even the slowest inside the park home run in 2012, per the indomitable Tater Trot Tracker (Ryan Roberts, 15.9 seconds), but not bad given his slow start.
He motored most of the way in his second one, with an assist from Alex Rios and the friendly right field wall in Miller Park in 2008:
Unofficially — it’s hard to tell when exactly he touched the plate in the beautiful standard definition of 2008 Fox Sports Wisconsin — I have Fielder at 16.9 seconds on this one.
OK, so he’s still slow. But he gets everything he can out of his speed. His 10 triples since 2006 is more than Nick Swisher. It’s twice as many as Alex Rodriguez. His 19 steals is more than double guys like J.J. Hardy and Justin Morneau.
Prince’s All-Star triple was a goofy and fun moment, to be sure. He was pumped, and his All-Star teammates got a real kick out of it. But sleep on his speed at your own risk — eventually, he’ll make you pay.