This is a pun-free post! I promise! I almost posted the lyrics to the Doug Fister Song but I chose not to. I’ll save it for a rainy day. Or a day when he pitches, or something like that.
On that note, Doug Fister came over last July 30th and immediately got his Doyle Alexander on. The Tigers probably would’ve made the postseason without him, but it’s difficult to imagine them getting past the Yankees without him. The fact that it essentially cost them a swingy left-handed reliever, a reserve outfielder who was never going to crack the starting three, a reliever, and a third baseman who may or may not turn into anything is just icing on the cake.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves, though. Fister isn’t going to post a sub-2 ERA again. Even a sub-3 ERA is a stretch. That said, there are a number of good reasons to believe that Fister’s 2011 wasn’t as fluky as some observers might dismiss it as. One reason is the precipitous rise in his K rate – from 4.89 per nine in 2010 to 6.07 in 2011 (7.29 with Detroit). If he can keep it at around 6 K/9, he’s going to have a lot of success, particularly with his minuscule walk rate (though he’s not going to walk less than 1 batter per 9 innings again, either). All his pitches have good movement, which is generally enough to throw off batters enough to ensure weak contact and get a lot of ground balls.
What he needs to work on
Not a lot. Fister does everything you’d expect of a #2 or #3 starter. He doesn’t walk guys, gets a lot of ground balls, keeps the ball in the park (although he’s gotten lucky in that department). The most important thing Fister needs to ensure is that the aforementioned strikeout rate stays close to where it ended up last year. If it does, he should put up an ERA in the range of 3.50 or lower.
What he needs to do to improve
While we’re on the topic of K rates, if he managed to get the K rate up even more (over 7 per 9) and slashed his walk rate a bit closer to what he did with Detroit, he could essentially become a slightly inferior right-handed version of Cliff Lee. I frankly doubt that this is going to happen (and I already regret typing it – I can already see the “GREY THINKS DOUG FISTER IS THE NEXT CLIFF LEE” comments in my nightmares), but more strikeouts are never a bad thing. Fister will have success if he keeps the ball down, gets grounders, and avoids homers. He did all of that very well last year. Further gains in the rate stats could make him even better.
What he will do
There’s nothing outrageous about expecting 6-6.5 strikeouts per nine from Fister this year with a lot of ground balls and not a ton of walks. That’ll bring plenty of success. Of course, there’s always the specter of Detroit’s infield defense causing a few headaches on said ground balls, which could bring his numbers up a bit, but a 3.50ish ERA and 200 or so innings is still well within the realm of possibility, making him an excellent number two option behind Justin Verlander, who is something of his antithesis.
Walkoff Woodward Bubblegum Card Prediction
IP 201, K 144, BB 39, 17-7, 3.49 ERA