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Entries in Doug Fister (9)

Saturday
Jan282012

Porcello, Fister Should Fear Detroit's Infield D

The Detroit Tigers' decision to put $214 million man Prince Fielder at first base instead of DH and move Miguel Cabrera, who last played third base regularly five years and fifty pounds ago, to the hot corner has some wondering whether Detroit's quest for maximum offense might produce the worst defensive infield seen in years.

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer probably aren't too worried, considering both are high-strikeout hurlers who induce fly balls when hitters do make contact. But Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, who put the ball in play and on the ground much more often, might be sweating the prospect of pairing the plus-sized corner infielders with shortstop Jhonny Peralta and a combination of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago at the keystone.

Porcello's punchout rate (13.3% of batters faced) ranked in the 18th percentile among starting pitchers (meaning he was worse than 82 percent of starters). Fister (16.7 K%) fared better, but he still placed in the bottom half (45th percentile). With few Ks, Porcello and Fister both ranked in the top 20 among American League starters in the percentage of pitches swung at put in play:

PitcherIn Play Pct.
Joel Pineiro 53.6%
Brad Penny 51.2%
Jeff Francis 50.4%
Nick Blackburn 50.1%
Phil Coke 49.7%
Trevor Cahill 49.0%
Mark Buehrle 48.9%
Freddy Garcia 48.4%
Carl Pavano 48.3%
Rick Porcello 48.0%
Ivan Nova 48.0%
Blake Beavan 47.9%
Tyler Chatwood 47.5%
Zach Britton 47.3%
Josh Tomlin 47.2%
Tim Wakefield 46.5%
Bartolo Colon 46.5%
Jeremy Guthrie 45.9%
Brett Anderson 45.7%
Doug Fister 45.6%

 

And when batters put the ball in play against these two, it's often on the grass. Both had ground ball rates above the league average, with Porcello burning worms 54% of the time and Fister doing so 47%. Lots of balls in play, and lots of grounders: not a good combination for a club with four infielders whose best position is "hitter."

Porcello bore the brunt of sloppy infield D in 2011, as he had a .283 batting average on grounders put in play. That was 44 points above the league average for starters and was fourth-highest among AL starters (teammate Scherzer was third, though he had far fewer grounders put in play). Fister, by contrast, enjoyed a .196 BABIP on grounders while spending most of the season in Seattle. Suffice it to say, that's not likely to happen in 2012.

Miggy, Prince, Peralta and Raburn make for a formidable infield offensively, and their defensive foibles might not get that much notice on days when Verlander and Scherzer (second and 17th, respectively, among AL starters in K rate) are on the bump. But when pitch-to-contact, ground ball-centric pitchers like Porcello and Fister take their turns, look for lots of singles.

Wednesday
Oct122011

Rangers Can't Resist Fister's Fastball

Doug Fister pitched the Tigers into the win column in the ALCS last night, surrendering two runs in 7.1 innings while striking out three and walking none. The former Mariner got 73 strikes in 102 pitches (72 percent), but he didn't do it by flooding the zone with strikes. Rather, he baited Rangers batters with fastballs off the plate.

Fister threw his fastball three-quarters of the time against Texas. Manager Jim Leyland praised Fister's approach: "In and out, moving the ball around, moving the ball both sides of the plate." Facing a lineup with seven right-handed hitters, the NBA-sized righty mostly pitched inside but did hit the outside corner to keep 'em honest:

Location of Fister's fastball vs. Texas, 10/11/2011

Seventy percent of Fister's fastballs were thrown inside, 21 percent were tossed outside and just nine percent caught the middle part of the plate. Rangers batters got very few cookies, and they couldn't really back off the plate to better handle those inside pitches with Fister also working the outside corner at times.

You'll note that most of those fastballs were thrown out of the zone. In fact, just one-third of Fister's fastballs were over the plate. But Texas hitters couldn't lay off, chasing 32 of 51 out-of-zone heaters (63 percent). That's nothing new for Fister, though: he leads all MLB starters in fastball chase percentage this season.

While he's not a power pitcher, the former non-prospect has improved his fastball velocity considerably -- he sat at 91 mph Tuesday and hit 93 -- while still featuring lots of movement. On average, Fister's fastball tailed in on righties by about 10 inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin. The average for righty fastballs is slightly more than half of that.

Combining average velocity with that much movement makes Fister's fastball a plus offering. Opponents have slugged just .319 against the pitch this season, the lowest clip among qualified MLB starters.

With each passing start, the six-player swap that brought Fister (under team control through 2015) to Detroit in July looks like even more of a masterstroke. Armed with a darting fastball that has climbed from the high-80s, Fister is no novelty act. He's just one of the best starters in the DH league.

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.