ALCS Pitching Preview: Doug Fister

Poll: The Game Two Starter
Kuroda will start Game Two on short rest

Because the Athletics pushed the Tigers to the full five games in the ALDS, it will be Doug Fister and not Justin Verlander on the mound in Game One of the ALCS tonight. Verlander threw a complete game in the Game Five win over the Tigers and will instead have to wait for Game Three to face the Yankees. That’s a break for New York, but Jim Leyland is still running a quality starting pitcher out there to open the series.

The Yankees actually drafted the 28-year-old Fister with their sixth round pick back in 2005, but the 6-foot-8 right-hander did not sign and instead returned to Fresno State for his senior season. The Mariners drafted him in the seventh round a year later and traded him to the Tigers at last season’s trade deadline. Fister made two starts* against the Yankees in last year’s ALDS, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings in Game One and one run in five innings in Game Five.

* Technically he pitched in relief of Verlander in Game One, which was suspended due to rain in the middle of the second inning. That whole thing was just a mess.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP BF Pit Str
Aug 9 DET NYY L,3-4 6.1 8 2 2 1 4 0 0 27 109 67
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2012.

Fister dealt with an oblique injury (and a subsequent setback) early this season and it caused him to miss Detroit’s first two series against the Yankees, though he did pitch in that four-game series in Comerica Park in early-August. He left his start in line for the win, but Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez hit back-to-back homers off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth before Rafael Soriano pitched out of a first and third with no outs situation in the ninth. The Yankees had just started their second-half slide and I remember that win being a real nice lift.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Guys like Fister are basically 4.5-pitch pitchers, meaning a sinker-baller who will throw the occasional get-me-over four-seamer but not use it as a regular weapon. He’s very textbook in the sense that he’ll go sinker early in the count and offspeed late, especially against left-handers. Fister is huge and lanky, creating a lot of deception with his delivery and it makes his upper-80s sinker play up. The slider (mid-80s), changeup (low-80s), and curveball (mid-70s) sit right where you would expect them to. Fister has a generic repertoire but is very unique due to his size and deception, if that makes sense.

Performance & Results

vs. RHB 286 0.276 3.83 19.6% 8.4% 60.7% 19.9% 19.4% 15.4%
vs. LHB 387 0.316 3.13 20.9% 3.4% 44.4% 31.3% 24.3% 10.0%

For the first three seasons of his career, Fister was a pure ground ball guy who didn’t walk anyone and didn’t miss any bats. He reinvented himself a bit this season, his first full year with the Tigers, by throwing some more changeups and curveballs instead of just pounding away with the sinker. His overall walk rate (2.06 BB/9 and 5.5 BB%) remains phenomenal and he’s still getting a ton of grounders (51.0%), but now he’s striking out more batters than ever (7.63 K/9 and 20.4 K%). Grounders, strikeouts, and no walks sure is a great recipe for success.

As you can see from the table, Fister is really tough on right-handers. They have a hard time elevating the ball against him, but he will make the occasional mistake and let it be hit out of the park. Left-handers have an easier time getting the ball airborne, but Fister has been extra stingy with the free passes against batters on the other side of the plate. The Tigers have a very sketchy infield defense that has come back to bite the sinker-balling right-hander a few times this season, and the Yankees figure to have more lefties than righties in the lineup regardless of whether Alex Rodriguez starts. Part of me wonders if starting Brett Gardner would be a good idea given his left-handedness, his speed, and his ability to slap the ball on the ground and into that defense. Then again, he hasn’t started a game in over six months now.

I mentioned this morning that the Yankees really need to be patient and work the count against Detroit’s starter so they could get into that questionable bullpen as soon as possible, but that will not be easy against Fister. He ranked 25th out of 65 AL pitchers (min. 100 IP) with 3.74 pitches per batter faced this year, which is identical to Hiroki Kuroda for some perspective. The guy pounds the zone, so working the count is going to be tough.

Poll: The Game Two Starter
Kuroda will start Game Two on short rest
  • RetroRob

    I’ve been waiting for Fister to implode since the Tigers acquired him. Unfortunately, he is much better than originally advertised, and has continued to make improvements.

  • Joe F (Oppan Gangnam Style Kuroda)

    I really think Fister is a product of Safeco and Comerica. He seems to pitch really well in his fly ball parks. Lets hit some over the short porch tonight.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      For the past three years Fister’s xFIP is 3.70 or in the past two it’s been 3.51.

      It’s park adjusted so he’s not relying on big ballparks. In a neutral ballpark he’s a solid number two starter that shouldn’t be underestimated.

      • Joe F (Oppan Gangnam Style Kuroda)

        I’d be slightly wary of park adjusted numbers. I mean it’s the best stats we got and I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t use them because I do. It’s just there’s certain cases.

        I obviously have done little research on him in hitters parks such as Yankee Stadium or Fenway. So that’s something to consider too.

      • vicki

        not to mention the 51% groundball rate. what a waste of park factor.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    Let’s get Gardner in. In place of Swisher, he should be able to get two or three bunt hits, especially toward third or dragging between first and the pitcher.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      His defense alone will make up for Swisher’s 57 wRC+ in the postseason.

  • Mick taylor

    Lineup against fister: jeter ichiro grandy cano Tex. Ibanez arod Martin gardner

    • Get Phelps Up (wins needed: 8)

      Granderson shouldn’t be hitting anywhere near 3rd.

    • G

      Why on Earth would we put Grandy 3rd? I know it’s against a righty but outside one homer he’s been awful. If you want him in the top 5, fine, I’d risk it, but Cano should absolutely be hitting 3rd.

      Other than that, fine I guess. Might like Chavez over A-Rod but I guess A-Rod cant exactly improve if he’s. It given a chance. Game 1s as good a time as any to see if he can get hot.

    • Mick taylor

      Oh yes he should . Grandy gives the yanks 3 fast guys to avoid dos. Hitting in front of cano he will get better pitches. Otherwise lots of dos since fister is a ground ball pitchr

  • Get Phelps Up (wins needed: 8)

    I can’t believe the Mariners gave him away for a freaking LOOGY and a 4th outfielder.

    • RetroRob

      At the time, I would have preferred Charlie Furbush to Doug Fister. Some questioned the Tigers for giving up a good young lefty arm for Fister. They were wrong, as was I.

  • dkidd

    doug fister


    heh heh…heh heh heh


    • Darren

      +1 crapaccinio

    • vicki

      i enjoyed the fister/furbush trade no end.

      i’m so sorry. i’m immature.

    • Luke

      Awesome comment!! I can see this going in my mind!

  • anon

    Hiro announced as Game 2 starter

    • anon

      Thought they would go Phelps + Hughes/Lowe but hope this move works out

  • Marcy


  • Mike

    Kuroda is starting game 2, interesting

  • vicki

    naughtiest pitching matchup ever? you fister, i pettitte.

    • Travis L.


    • dkidd

      dick pole vs pete lacock?

      • vicki

        too bad bj surhoff never caught rollie fingers.

        • dkidd

          gotta get rusty kuntz in there someplace

  • JLC 776

    Nothing will come easy this series. I really hope yesterday was the beginning of Granderson coming awake and that Cano isn’t far behind.

  • vicki

    good job, joe; this was the only way to go.

    and tomorrow is optimal for hirok; it’ll be warm and humid in the bronx. and most of all he’ll be able to go again in the series if need be.

  • oldmanalex currently benchwarming
  • Toby

    Fister famine you say?