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Alex Remington

The Numbers: Prince Fielder is baseball's portly paradox

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Each week, Big League Stew stat doctor Alex Remington will bring you a few baseball numbers you need to know.

The listed weight of National League home run leader Prince Fielder(notes), though it's quite possible he's gained an ounce here or there since weighing in. The Milwaukee Brewers first baseman is one of 13 people in the bigs this year listed at 270 or more, but as our own Jeff Passan notes, he is the only player in major league history who weighs that much while standing under six feet. While Fielder is 5-foot-11, every other current big leaguer who weighs that much ranges from 6-foot-2 (the Astros' Felipe Paulino(notes)) to 6-foot-11 (Twins closer Jon Rauch(notes)). John Kruk writes on ESPN.com today that Fielder's weight won't be any problem in his career. I'm skeptical, but there's no denying that that Fielder's height and weight are unprecedented in big league history.

The combined hit-by-pitch total of teammates Rickie Weeks(notes) and Prince Fielder, who are first and third on the leaderboard. Actually, something must be in that Midwest water because Marlon Byrd(notes) is second on that list, Carlos Quentin(notes) is fourth and Juan Pierre(notes) and Travis Hafner(notes) are tied for fifth. In all, there have been 879 batters hit by pitches this year, and the Brewers and White Sox are tied at the top of the list with 47 each. (The Astros are at the bottom of the list with just 14 total HBP, a total that Craig Biggio exceeded 10 times in his career.)

Rafael Furcal's(notes) OPS, the best among all major league shortstops. Furcal was a late pick for the All-Star Game — it was just his second selection and first since 2003 — but he's quietly having the best season of his entire career. It's boosted by an unsustainable .371 BABIP, but the power is real. (Believe it or not, he's outslugging Manny Ramirez(notes).) With his awesome bat and his plus defense, Furcal has been, by far, the most valuable Dodger. His 3.7 Wins Above Replacement is more than twice as many as his next teammate. Few people think of him as the best shortstop in baseball, but that's exactly what he's been this season.

The number of pitches per plate appearance that Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner(notes) has averaged this year, best in the big leagues. While offseason acquisition, BLS blogger, and all-around good guy Curtis Granderson(notes) has struggled to a .237 batting average, the guy to his left has had a breakout campaign, batting .305 with an .806 OPS and 26 steals in 32 attempts. He's doing everything a leadoff hitter should do — even though he's batting second — seeing tons of pitches, taking walks, and swiping bags. Gardner has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season for Yankee fans, and his control of the strike zone is a big reason why.

Austin Jackson's(notes) Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), highest in the majors. Jackson, the key Yankee trading chip in the deal that brought Granderson to the Bronx, has had a promising rookie year in Detroit, but his numbers have steadily declined since batting .364 in April, and his BABIP has been dangerously high all season. Another reason his batting average is bound to come down is that he strikes out more than once a game and he just doesn't make enough contact for a guy with just one home run all season. He's unquestionably having a fine year for a 23-year old rookie center fielder, but that BABIP won't stay that high all year, and his batting average will suffer big time when it comes down.

The strikeout percentage of the hardest man to strike out in the majors, David Eckstein(notes). What, you were expecting maybe Ryan Howard(notes)? The 35-year old Eckstein isn't doing anything this year he hasn't done before: his .277/.324/.352 isn't far off his career mark of .281/.346/.358, and in that cavern in San Diego, those numbers actually aren't half-bad for a punchless second baseman, and he's already amassed 1.6 Wins Above Replacement in just over half a season. The X-Factor is entering some pretty rarified ground, too. He and Juan Pierre are the only players over the last decade to amass 5,000 plate appearances and strike out fewer than 400 times. Meanwhile, Gregg Jefferies and Lance Johnson are the only other two to do it in the last two decades.

The number of franchises that Matt Stairs(notes) has played for: the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Oakland A's, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, and the San Diego Padres. That's an all-time record, tied with Ron Villone(notes) (who retired last year) and Mike Morgan (who retired in 2002). The 42-year old Stairs is having a rough time in Petco Park, with a .204 average in his first 61 at-bats as a Padre, so this may be his farewell tour. Still, it's been a memorable and well-traveled career for the barrel-shaped New Brunswicker.

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