Fielder’s approach paying off at plate
By: By Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Superior Telegram
MIAMI — Prince Fielder didn’t have a scalding week at the plate during May. He didn’t have an ice-cold week, either.
“He was very consistent,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “He put up consistent numbers. He had a good, solid performance every night.”
When the month was over, Fielder had accumulated 31 runs batted in, establishing a franchise record for May. The previous record was 30, set by Carlos Lee in May 2005.
By batting .305 with nine homers and 31 RBI, Fielder earned the Brewers’ player of the month honors for May. Beyond winning that award, Fielder was pleased with his even-keel approach.
“I’ve been really working on not making everything life and death,” said Fielder. “I’ve been working on that as much as actually baseball.
“I’ve been talking to veteran guys like ‘Cam’ (Mike Cameron), (Craig) Counsell, ‘JK’ (Jason Kendall), guys with long careers. It’s the mental part that can mess you up more, not thinking you’re doing something right.
“This year, I’ve gotten better at that. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, but I’m getting better. Hopefully, it’ll be perfect one day.”
Last season, Fielder had a rough May in terms of production, driving in only nine runs. He went into the all-star break with 52 RBI, a figure he was only four shy of entering the four-game series against Florida.
Fielder said he’d often get frustrated during the down times and vowed to avoid that pitfall as much as possible this season.
“I’m trying to keep the same approach. It’s an at-bat. It’s not a season; it’s one at-bat, one game. I try to keep it simple that way. I know it sounds easy, but it’s really not.
“I’ve also started giving more credit to (the pitchers) at times. Before, I’d think I was supposed to get a hit, no matter what. Now I’m coming to grips with that they’re good and their job is to get me out.”
A perfect month: The Brewers’ pitcher of the month was an easy choice, also. It went to closer Trevor Hoffman, who turned in 12 scoreless outings and converted all 11 of his save opportunities.
Even for baseball’s all-time saves leader, it was an impressive showing, particularly when you consider Hoffman is 41.
“That’s one of the better ones I’ve had,” he said.
Hoffman has been one of the top stories in the majors during the first half of the season, turning in 15 scoreless outings and converting all 13 of his save opportunities. In 15 innings, he has allowed six hits and one walk while logging 14 strikeouts.
Asked if even he was surprised, Hoffman said, “It’s still way too early for that. I’m just trying to find a flow. I couldn’t be more pleased with my start.
“I can’t put my finger on any one thing. Working ahead (in the count) is a big thing. You don’t want to beat yourself. It’s still early. When you’re a relief pitcher, a couple of bad outings can blow things up.”
Hoffman, who signed a $6 million free agent deal in January, said he has been pleased with his decision to come to Milwaukee.
And he has been thrilled with the way the fans have picked up on his “Hells Bells” entrance.
“The fans have been great,” said Hoffman. “We’re having a lot of fun.”
Hoffman missed the first 17 games of the season with an oblique strain. Since he was activated, the Brewers’ bullpen has come together nicely, taking a 3.22 ERA into this series — third-best in the NL.
“The bullpen has gotten us where we are,” said Macha, whose relief corps allowed no runs in 10 innings in a weekend sweep of Cincinnati. “It all started when Hoffman came back. There’s not as much scrambling going on (in the late innings).”
— Copyright (c) 2009, Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune