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« Swisher's Postseason Struggles | Main | Nova's Super Slider »
Thursday
Oct062011

Can Fister Expand the Zone vs. the Yankees?

Doug Fister surely hopes that his second ALDS appearance goes more smoothly than the first. Fister, making a quasi-start after Game One resumed on September 30, gave up six runs in 4.2 innings while striking out six and walking a pair of batters. He has his bullpen to thank for that run total, but Fister did jam the bases in the sixth inning before Al Alburquerque served up a grand slam to Robinson Cano. Part of the problem, MLB.com's Barry Bloom notes, is that the Yankees stopped chasing so much in the sixth:

This is what happened when Game 1 was resumed: After a rough start, Fister had the Yankees jumping at breaking pitches out of the strike zone, and he recorded five quick whiffs by the time the end of the fourth inning came around.

The Yankees then stopped hacking and made Fister put his pitches in the zone. That resulted in a couple of walks and a big crooked No. 6 on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Had Robinson Cano's shot that hit the top of the left-field fence in the fifth inning and hopped into the stands instead of back on the field for a double, matters would have been even worse.

Through the fifth inning, Fister got Yankees hitters to go after 13 of 34 pitches (38 percent) that he threw out of the strike zone. In that ill-fated sixth, they chased just four of 19 pitches (21 percent) that Fister tossed off the plate. Whether Fister can entice New York to swing at those would-be balls may well determine which team goes to the ALCS.

No pitcher in the American League is more adept than Fister at getting hitters to chase pitches. Opponents have gone fishing 36 percent of the time that Fister has thrown a ball off the dish, compared to the 29 percent average. In particular, he gets lefties to lunge off the outside corner and righties to take awkward hacks at pitches in on the hands:

 Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Fister

The Yankees, however, are among the game's most disciplined teams in terms of laying off these pitches. Aside from Cano, who swings at anything between the Bronx and Hoboken, New York's projected starting lineup tonight knows the zone well:

If Fister can get swings on junk pitches, he could pitch the Tigers into the ALCS for the first time since 2006. If not, he could be in for another long night -- and a short start.

 

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