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Yahoo! fantasy “expert” Brandon Funston (whose teams always seem to finish last) weighs in this week on Prince Fielder and his lack of power this season:

Folks, I hear your concerns about Fielder’s new vegetarian lifestyle. Last year’s 50-home run hitter has just six long balls through 43 games this season. Milwaukee doesn’t employ a dietician on staff, like some teams, but you’d think that that would have been the first thing they would have done when they heard their prize slugger had sworn off dead animals.

That’s one way to look at it. Me, I think the Brewers might have investigated hiring a dietician the day they drafted a 280-pound first baseman (Prince is listed at 260, but who are we kidding?). Prince’s new diet shouldn’t be cause for concern, it should be cause for celebration. True, his power numbers are down slightly, but there’s no reason to think it has anything to do with his diet. Ryan Howard’s numbers are terrible. As recently as last week he had the lowest batting average in baseball. Are we blaming his struggles on his diet?

If Prince starts dating Jessica Simpson, then there will be cause for concern. But eating more vegetables is a good thing.

17 Responses to “Stop trashing Prince’s diet”

  1. Nick Kapur says:

    I don’t know, Coley. Did you read that article that Funston links to? It makes it sound like switching to a vegetarian diet when you are a high-level athlete is a pretty serious thing, and one that requires supervision and monitoring, which the article suggests Fielder is not getting.

  2. Coley Ward says:

    Nick, that article was a load of crap. First of all, they’re comparing Fielder to “triathaletes, marathon runners, weight lifters, rowers and the like.” And, I mean, let’s be honest – he plays first base. He’s not an elite athlete. He swings a stick 15-20 times a night and he stands around and waits for a ball to get to him.

    Second, they say he needs 300 grams of protein…or what? Is he going to waste away? Good! He’s way overweight. He needs to lose a few pounds.

    Finally, let me tell you how totally shocked I am that the dietician suggested Fielder should be consulting a dietician. That’s a totally unbiased opinion, I’m sure.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    People just grasp for solutions when good players struggle. And because we are human, we reach for the most obvious explanation we can think of, whether it makes much sense or not. Prince not hitting longballs? Must be his new veggie diet. Papi struggling at the plate? Oh, it must be that knee thing acting up again. Barry Zito underperforming? Must be the pressure of that big contract getting to him. Tony Romo sucking it up? Must be his girlfriend’s boobs distracting him.

    Meat has nothing to do with Prince’s problems. I think we can all agree that the food with the greatest impact on power hitting ability is, without a doubt, mango salsa.

  4. Paul Moro says:

    I’m pretty much a carnivore. My lifetime HR total still stands at zero.

  5. As long as we’re “being honest”, let’s not pretend like diets have nothing to do with an athelete’s success. You hear atheletes attributing new-found success to diets all the time. And Fielder may not have to be on par with other baseball players physically but he does play a 162 game season so I think your underestimating the type of shape he has to be in. I’m not saying his diet is the cause for his power shortage but I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off. Baseball is a game of inches and the smallest changes can end up making a big difference.

  6. Coley Ward says:

    Zach, it’s true we do hear ballplayers talk about the importance of new diets. It’s also true we hear them talk about the power of golden thongs. I think, before we start blaming Prince’s diet for his power struggles, we should at least find out what his diet is these days. We know it doesn’t include meat, but is he eating a lot of eggs? Cheese? Soy? What about high-protein grains like quinoa?

  7. Paul Moro says:

    And there’s also the fact that Fielder’s hitting the ball on the ground far more often this year than he did last. And it’s not even close. Not sure if this has anything to do with anyone’s diet.

  8. Coley, your bias is showing.

    We KNOW Prince Fielder has changed his diet. Thus it’s the easiest explanation. If we KNEW Ryan Howard had changed his diet, you can be sure people would be picking on that as well.

    Also, the article that was linked to is spot on. Recommended protein per pound of bodyweight for athletes is 1g. 300g might be a bit much, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt. Remember, we’re talking about 6’2″ 260lb guy here, who plays baseball almost everyday. He couldn’t even get a leg into those skinny jeans that are so popular.

    The most important line of that article is the last:

    “Making the switch to a vegetarian diet – for anyone, the dietitian said, “is not just, ‘I’m not going to eat meat anymore, la la.’ It takes some management.”

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Rich, I agree that making the switch to a veggie diet takes some management, but I think in sportswriting the “easiest explanation” is often synonymous with the “laziest explanation.”

    Yes, Prince should probably be working with a dietitian. But so should every other major leaguer.

  10. Paul Moro says:

    I make fun of vegetarians all the time. But even I know that essential proteins are still readily available without meat. Saying that vegetarians don\’t have the proper nutrition to be successful athletes is a total blanket statement. Just like omnivores, vegetarians have diets that vary from individual to individual. It\’s not so cut-and-dry as to label them all under one roof and call it a day. Just like there\’s a right way to be an omnivore, there\’s a right way to be a vegetarian.

  11. Nick Kapur says:

    I don’t know. I think it is fair to speculate about whether or not Fielder’s new diet is affecting his play. I don’t think we can by any means rule that out. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a “lazy explanation.” Speculating about why players are performing how they are performing is part of what being a baseball fan is all about, and in the absence, to our knowledge, of any other major difference between 2007 Prince Fielder and 2008 Prince Fielder, I don’t see why it should be completely off-limits to wonder whether becoming a vegetarian has played a role in his apparent decreased performance, just because being vegetarian is PC and awesome and healthsome and cuddly or whatever.

    I mean, we can’t say that that is definitely the cause, but then, nobody is really saying that. They are just wondering, and I don’t see why that should be totally forbidden to even consider going down that road.

  12. Paul Moro says:

    But there’s a difference between a “possible explanation” and an “explanation”. The fact that his diet has been highlighted above other theories that are just as probable seems a bit unfair to vegetarians. Like they’re weak in comparison.

    Jesus, I’m actually defending vegetarians? What the hell is wrong with me?

  13. Lyndsay says:

    FAT. BOYYYY! (which I had to say every time Bartolo Colon came back up last night, and it will be a while before it gets old)

    I think Fielder should go on the Miguel Cabrera/Bartolo Colon diet, aka “I don’t geeve a sheet, mang, I aint losin weight for no contract!” diet.

  14. I absolutely agree that every major leaguer should be working with a dietitian, Sarah. I’m honestly shocked that the Brewers don’t have one. A proper diet is one of the easiest ways to improve athletic performance.

    However, it’s even more key for vegetarian athletes, as they have to pay more attention to what they’re eating. It’s certainly doable with only a modicum of effort and knowledge.

    As to whether or not we should be jumping all over his diet, answer these questions.

    Has he changed his stance?

    Has he changed his weight training?

    Has he changed his conditioning?

    Does he party more?

    Has he changed his diet? YES

    I’m going to go with the obvious explanation, until someone can provide information otherwise.

    Think back to last year’s J.D Drew in Boston. Most Boston fan’s thought like this:

    Does JD Drew just outright suck balls? YES

    Does JD Drew have some family issues right now? . . .

    It wasn’t until people found out about his family issues that they realized he might have something other than himself to worry about.

    Until someone can shed some light on other possible issues that Prince Fielder might be experiencing, I’m going to go with the fairly simple assumption about most athletes: He doesn’t know a thing about regular diets let alone vegetarian diets, and it’s hurting his performance.

  15. Sarah Green says:

    I’m still not convinced JD’s suckage was because of his family issues. I’m sure they didn’t help, but I think the better explanation was the one he gave this spring—he was standing in the wrong spot in the batter’s box. That seems much more likely to directly affect his hitting performance than his emotional state. But that’s not something we could know from parsing his stats on Baseball Reference.

    That said, let’s parse some of Prince’s stats on Baseball Reference just to see what’s there. His P/PA is slightly up, but he seems to be striking out on a few more of those deep counts instead of walking, since his BB/PA and his BB/SO rates have declined slightly from last year. His AB/HR rate has gone from a homer every 11.5 at-bats last year to a horrifying 27.2 rate this year. His BABIP, at .283 last year, is a little lower this year at .267, but it’s not dramatically awful. He is, however, hitting doubles at almost exactly the same rate (once every 16.4 games in 07 and once every 16.3 games this year). For what that’s worth. Yet there is a swing in his GB/FB ratio—last year, it was .80, this year, it’s 1.02. What do we make of this?

    If you look at his numbers from 2006 and 2005, you can see just how dramatic his breakout in 2007 was. Maybe he’s just falling back to earth a little bit. Maybe his timing is off, or he’s not “seeing the ball,” or maybe he’s hiding an injury. I mean, we could speculate all day. But if you’re going to speculate about his new veggie diet, I think it’s important to remember that *this was not a healthy man to begin with.* It’s not like his diet was perfectly Zen-balanced before, when he was knocking back the buffalo wings and quarter-pounders with cheese.

  16. I think Sarah hit it right on the head. What’s crazy is that people are worried about Prince now that he’s a vegetarian, but they were totally fine with him before, when he was downing Whoppers and fries like a stoned Kobayashi with a case of the munchies. Funston says he is surprised the Brewers didn’t rush out and hire a dietitian after Prince went veggie, but I’m shocked they didn’t hire one years ago.

  17. melissa says:

    Coley,
    You must be ecstatic to hear that Oprah is going to be waving the big foam finger for the veggie lifestyle. She’s going on a 21 day vegan detox diet. Vegetarians everywhere will be hoping she doesn’t do to them what she did to James Frey. Forget what dietitians think Oprah will tell America and baseball writers everywhere what to think about a life sans meat. Prince may soon have the only advocate he needs to support his new lifestyle.

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