Several months ago, at the start of the baseball season, I wrote an article indicating that a major league baseball player, Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, had gone vegetarian. Yesterday was the mid-way point in the Brewers’ season, so I thought we should check and see how Mr. Fielder has been performing thus far this season. As you may recall, Fielder became a vegetarian after his wife Chanel, had showed him Kim Barnouin’s and Rory Freedman’s book, Skinny Bitch.
Major league baseball maintains very detailed statistics, making it easy to see how a player or team has performed during one season versus previous seasons. They keep stat on as to the number of hits during the day, at night, at home, on the road, in the division, in interleague play, against left hand pitcher, against right hand pitchers, etc. We’ll just look at Fielders basic stats, his batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.
So how well has Fielder performed thus far this season as compared to previous seasons? According to his mid season stats, I guess you would have to say that he is not performing quite as well – especially as compared to last season. This season, Fielder got off to a very slow start. He didn’t his first home run until April 17th, nearly three weeks into the season. His batting average (the number of base hits that he gets as a percentage of his official at bat appearances) had also suffered. Three weeks into the season, he was hitting only .215.
Something certainly seemed to be impacting his strength and his overall hitting skills. Early in the year, Fielder took a lot of “ribbing” (pun intended) from the media and fans alike, linking his new diet to his poor stats. However, now that we have reached the mid point of the season, he stats have improved. Fielder is a third year player. In his first pro season, he batted .271 with 28 home runs and 81 runs batted in (rbis). Last year, he had a phenomenal season. He batted .288, while hitting a massive 50 home runs, and had 119 rbis.
So far this year, Fielder has batted .271 with 16 homers and 42 rbis. If you extrapolate that out over an entire season, he is a pace to hit 32 home runs, drive in 84 runs, and hit batting average is .271 as it was back in 2006. These stats are right in line with his rookie season’s stats. However, they fall far shy of his monster stats from last year. Can this be attributed to his new vegetarian diet? Perhaps. Were last year’s stats an anomaly? Perhaps. Have pitchers figured out how to pitch to him? Perhaps. Are there other mitigating circumstances? Perhaps. People will continue to speculate and argue about this. In my mind, there is no definitive answer.
Fielder has the capability to go on a tear and dramatically increase his home run production in the second half of this season. If he gets his home run numbers close to that 50 total from last season, it would likely quiet those who argue that there is no place for a meatless diet in baseball.
There continue to be conflicting arguments within the medical profession as to whether a meatless diet is acceptable for athletes. Some doctors feel that a vegetarian diet is not optimal, as people may not accumulate some of the valuable micronutrients such as zinc and iron, and that soy proteins in males may increase their estrogen levels, adversely affecting their testosterone levels. Other doctors argue that a well-planned vegetarian diet will satisfy people’s nutritional needs. They indicate that as long as muscles are receiving protein, it doesn’t matter where it (the protein) comes from – whether is be animal or plant derived, and that a plant based diet can meet the increased nutritional needs of the professional athlete. As I mentioned in a previous article, there are many successful vegetarian and vegan professional athletes.
Regardless, if Fielder, a 270-pound professional athlete, finishes this season with stats that are similar to last year’s, it would be a boon to vegetarianism. There would be another celebrated figure bringing awareness to the public that meat free nutrition is a reasonable, acceptable alternative to a meat laden diet. Will vegetarianism or even veganism become mainstream? That’s unlikely in the near term, but it certainly seems to be gaining momentum.