Powerful Prince deserves All-Star start
Fielder's stats, clutch performances, leadership driving Brewers
Prince Fielder should be the starting All-Star first baseman for the National League because he is having the best season of any NL first baseman.
It is that simple, that straightforward and that indisputable. It was true before the unfortunate injury to Albert Pujols, and it is certainly no less true now.
Supporting Milwaukee's Fielder as an All-Star starter requires no rhetorical maneuvering, because the facts are on his side. The nearest competitor to him, Cincinnati's Joey Votto, is a worthy candidate (and should be the starter, says colleague Alden Gonzalez), but he is not having the kind of run-production impact that Fielder is having in 2011.
Yes, Votto was the NL's Most Valuable Player in 2010. But this isn't the balloting for the 2010 All-Star Game.
The most recent All-Star voting totals at first base had Pujols first, Votto second and Fielder third. This was somewhat understandable given that Pujols has a stature that is unmatched within the game. Votto had a huge 2010 and he had it for a division-winning team.
But Pujols is out, for perhaps six weeks, with a non-displaced fracture in the area of his left wrist. The current rules governing the All-Star balloting dictate that if Pujols remains in first place in the fan voting, but is unable to play, the starter would be the winner of the players' voting. If Pujols wins the players' voting, the starter would be the runner-up in that category.
But it shouldn't come to that, because, with the advent of online voting, what we have seen is a more objective voting public, a public that is much less likely to vote along the lines of sentiment or provincial bias and more likely to vote on the basis of statistical merit. And this is exactly where we find Fielder, leading the field of NL first basemen in 2011.
Again, this is no knock on Votto, a talent of the first magnitude and yet another fine Canadian fellow playing baseball in the States. But Fielder is having the better season. In terms of run production, a legitimate standard for a position that must produce runs, the issue is not particularly close.
Votto has nine home runs and 43 RBIs (as of Tuesday morning). Fielder has 20 home runs and 62 RBIs. Fielder is tied for the league lead in home runs and is alone in the lead for runs batted in. Fielder also has a truly sizable lead in slugging percentage, .610 to Votto's .500. Votto is actually having something of an off-year by his previous power standards.
And Fielder is not piling up these impressive totals in meaningless situations. In one recent 10-game stretch, Fielder hit eight home runs. Six of those home runs put the Brewers in the lead, while two of them tied games. During this same stretch, the Brewers, not at all coincidentally, moved into contention in the NL Central. Fielder has been not only a power source, but a source of power in clutch situations.
He is not short in the intangible half of the game, either. Fielder is admired by his teammates for his relentless, wall-to-wall effort. Fielder has never played fewer than 157 games in any of his five full seasons. He is never going to be a Gold Glove first baseman, but he has worked hard on the defensive portion of his game, and he has made significant improvements there.
Again, this isn't a choice between good and evil, day and night, wrong and right. Votto and Fielder are both established stars, both deserving of recognition.
But the issue before us is which one is having the better 2011. That is clearly, objectively, by the numbers, Fielder. He should be, on merit, with justice, the starting first baseman for the 2011 National League All-Star team.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.