Previewing Doug Fister, Part Two


Will Fister switch up the game plan tonight? (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

When I previewed Doug Fister prior to the continuation of Game One, I noted that he’s an extreme strike-thrower that gets ahead with his fastball and generally pitches lefties and righties the same way. Righties will get a few more fastballs, lefties a few more changeups, but otherwise it was the same approach. He’s not a huge stuff guy, instead relying on command and the willingness to attack hitters rather relentlessly.

The Yankees touched Fister up for six runs on seven hits and two walks in 4.2 IP in Game One, drawing the same number of free passes in that game that he issued in his final four regular season starts combined. He did plow through the lineup the first time through the order, but the Yankees adjusted and really went to work once it turned over. Seven of the final ten hitters he faced reached base, and the Yankees won the game.

Fister will start the decisive Game Five tonight, so I figured it would be good to look back at Game One to see how he attacked the Yankees hitters. It’s just one game, a sampling of just 90 pitches, so we shouldn’t take any of this stuff to heart. It’ll just give us an idea of what he did in that game, and give us something to look for tonight. Let’s break apart the two different types of hitters, starting with the guys he’ll see more of…

Left-Handed Batters

(via Brooks)

Pay attention to the numbers in the strike zone plot, and remember this is from the catcher’s view. The vast majority of the number ones (i.e. the first pitch of a given at-bat) are down and/or away. Most of the higher pitch numbers (three and up) are inside. Fister started the Yankees left-handed batters off with pitches away before coming back inside a little later in the at-bat to keep these guys honest. Outside then inside, and usually that was it.

The pitch selection, seen in the chart to the right, shows that Fister threw his five different pitches at a rate consistent with the regular season. He only threw 64 pitches to lefties in Game One, so one individual pitch represents 1.6% of the sample. The difference in the rates is like, plus or minus three pitches. Nothing crazy. For the most part, Fister was his usual self against all the left-handed batters the Yankees threw at him on Saturday. As for the guys on the other side of the plate…

Right-Handed Batters

(via Brooks)

Obvious statement is obvious: Fister pounded the Yankees righties (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Russell Martin) inside with fastballs on Saturday. I mean really pounded them inside; just two (two!) of the 26 pitches he threw them were on the outer half of the plate, and they were two waste pitches so far outside they were easily taken for balls. All but six of those 26 pitches were two-seam fastballs, only three were offspeed pitches (two curves and a changeup).

Unlike his approach to lefties, it seems pretty clear that Fister and his battery mate Alex Avila made an effort to go at New York’s three right-handed bats high-ish and hard, preventing them from getting any kind of extension in their swing. Martin, A-Rod, and Jeter combined to go 2-for-6 with a double, a ground ball single, three strikeouts, two ground outs, and one fly out off the big right-hander in Game One.

* * *

Just looking at Fister’s combined pitch chart (all batters), you can see that he threw the majority of his pitches to the armside, or inside to righties and away to lefties. That could just be his comfort zone, some guys have trouble throwing to the glove side, or it could be by design. My semi-obvious theory: he was pitching to Yankee Stadium. He didn’t want to put a pitch outside so a righty could flick it towards the short porch, nor did he want to have a lefty pull their hands in and yank something down the right field line. It’s just a theory, but if it’s what Fister was trying to do, it didn’t work. Five of the nine balls he allowed to be hit to the outfield went to right, another two to center.

Whether or not Fister continues to bust righties in with fastballs while working away to lefties remains to be seen, but that seems to have been their plan in Game One. It didn’t really work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an adjustment is coming. The Tigers could be banking on better execution instead.

Categories : Playoffs
  • RJ

    Until A-Rod proves his hip will allow him to open and drive an inside fastball, I’d be inclined to go there. As for Jeter he’s made his money going the opposite way so making him pull isn’t a bad idea either.

    If Fister is hell bent on pitching righties inside then they should hide Tex’s LH helmet and tell him to hit RH’ed. I wouldn’t mind Montero seeing some inside fastballs either.

    • nsalem

      “If Fister is hell bent on pitching righties inside then they should hide Tex’s LH helmet and tell him to hit RH’ed”

      This is a great time to experiment

      • RJ

        While typed in jest…. by his own admission Tex is a RH hitter who happens to switch hit,(if not his words really close) its very clear what his stronger side is. If its fastballs, it doesn’t matter so much what hand they are coming out of, and quite frankly watching some of Tex’s LH AB’s is getting tough. There a reason he was dropped in the line up.

  • pat

    For some reason Tigers blogs are saying that they’ll get to Nova this time around because they just saw him yet Fister will pitch better. I wish I could be that oblivious.

    • nsalem

      Why shouldn’t they think like that? They are Tiger fans and it’s not impossible that this can happen.
      While I am extremely confident in the Yankees chances it wouldn’t be shocking to see Fister turn in a quality start. He is a good pitcher and capable of it. The Tigers will not roll over tonight, we should win tonight but it’s far from a given.

      • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

        It’s not stupid to think Fister could pitch well.

        It’s stupid to think that Nova won’t pitch well because the logic they use for him is literally the opposite of the logic they’re using for Fister.

        • pat


        • David

          “It’s stupid to think that Nova won’t pitch well because the logic they use for him is literally the opposite of the logic they’re using for Fister.”

          Slight disagreement here,- if the thinking is that Fister, with better command and more experience, will be able to do a better job of adjusting than a rookie, there’s some sense to that.

          • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

            That would be true for in-game adjustments, but between-start adjustments aren’t just the pitcher’s responsibility. And Fister has had 2 good years to Nova’s one, it’s not like we’re talking a seasoned veteran.

        • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

          I believe both teams have an advantage because both pitchers have already pitched this offseason. That really favors Detroit, though, because Fister’s last name starts with an ‘F’, and so does ‘fan’. So the fans are going to wish that Fister has a bunch of rainbows in his pocket.

          When do the Red Sox play?

          /Harold Reynolds’ed

    • RJ

      I’d fully expect both line ups to have a slight advantage or have a better go of it having seen these pitchers in the last week.

    • Rainbow Connection

      Yankees fans tell themselves the same shit. Stop being a homer.

      • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

        Here’s a good piece of advice. Maybe, if you don’t want to be around Yankee homers, don’t spend your time on a Yankees blog

        /still waiting

  • Stuckey

    I’m a firm believer in anything can (and often will) happen in a 9-inning game, but I see an obvious formula emerging. Yankees have enough pitching tonight to limit the Tigers to the 5-run cap they’ve been held to.

    Score 5 (or more) I like the Yankees chances.

    Score less, it’s a toss-up.

    • Jimmy

      As long as the Yankees score more than the Tigers, its a lock.

      • Joey from jersey

        Where is your research to prove this?

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    i am so nervous right now, can’t wait to get to the stadium, it is going to be crazy

    • Rockdog

      Man,am I jealous. Been a Yankee fan my whole life and I have never been to a playoff game.

    • Joey from jersey

      New handle for you — “bartolo’s nervous colon”. Just a thought

  • Supernova

    Fister is not a battled tested playoff pitcher and that will be in full display tonight as he wilts again under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. Nova has proven to be a calm and collected kid on the mound who just exudes confidence. You can’t teach a guy to be a big game pitcher, they either have it or they don’t and Nova’s got it.

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      let’s hope nova can do his best el duque playoff impression for the rest of the season

    • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

      Nova has had ONE postseason start. ONE!

      • CP

        Actually, he’s had no post season starts.

        • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

          Bah. One appearance then.

          • RJ

            In my best Tim Kurt-Jan voice… this is actually the first time ever in an elimination game that both starting pitchers will be making their 1st post season start, that is amazing, is this a great game

    • Rainbow Connection

      “You can’t teach a guy to be a big game pitcher, they either have it or they don’t”

      Then what happened to CC??? He won a WS in ’09, now he can’t beat the Sox and stinks it up in the playoffs.

      • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

        Love ignoring 09 to prove how much CC sucks in the playoffs, when that accounted for more than a third of his postseason innings.

        /still waiting

      • Bartolo’s Colon

        it’s a good thing for cc that the sox are sitting on their couches watching the playoffs, he won’t have to worry about getting beat by them

  • boogie down

    If A-Rod’s final 3 AB’s in Detroit are an indication of progress, he shouldn’t have much trouble dealing with Fister’s inside two-seamer.

    I think there’s a semi-good chance that A-Rod has a big game tonight.

  • UncleArgyle

    I agree. ARod looks like he’s on the cusp of breaking out. Which would obviously be huge. Tex and Swisher are still concerns, both guys look lost. At very least those two should be broken up in the lineup. You can’t have two guys back to back in the middle of the lineup who just aren’t hitting. Move Swish down to 8th or 9th at least.

    • CountryClub

      I don’t think either one of them looks lost. The results have been bad, but they’ve both hit a few balls hard. Bad luck is part of the game. And Swish finally got a hit with risp, hopefully that takes the piano off his back.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Dug Fister-one of the great baseball names. lol

    He barely touches 90mph so a little bat speed goes along way to being able to handle the inside pitch. His change and splitter are the pitches that worry me as we tend to “free swing” over the top of them (see Tex and Swish). They are hard pitches to layoff of as they drop off the table low and away to the lefty batter.

  • Tom O

    My plan: get ahead by one run on Fister, and then stop scoring. When Valverde comes in down by one run in the top of the 9th, bomb the (expletive) out of him for good measure while the Stadium boos him back to Detroit.

    • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

      This is going to be very difficult to see happening unless Valverde subverts MLB rules and changes teams. Or the rules change and Detroit is the home team.

      • Tom O

        Whoops, my bad. Should be bottom of the 8th.

  • Rockdog

    Interesting point on how Fister piched game 1A. It looks like he was staying away from right field, and the short fence there. Does anyone know if this is a typical strategy? It seems somewhat obvious, but with the Yankees lineup, if the hitters know where the ball is likely to go, that should mean a long night for the pitcher.

    • RJ

      any professional lineup would have an edge if they knew the plan, I fully expect, Nova, Rothchild and Martin to have some different looks for the Tigers tonight.

    • http://twitter.com/JimIsBored JimIsBored (Jim S)

      “with the Yankees lineup, if the hitters know where the ball is likely to go, that should mean a long night for the pitcher.”

      fixed :)

      • Rockdog

        Here’s hoping.