Archive for 2012 ALCS
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
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
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.
The new playoff schedule has the Yankees playing five games in five days — spanning the final three games of the ALDS and the first two of the ALCS — which means they’ll have to do something creative for their Game Two starter tomorrow night. It’s not ideal but it is what it is, nothing anyone can do. Thankfully the Bombers have a number of viable options to start that game, some better and more practical than others. Joe Girardi indicated that he will announce his Game Two starter during his pre-Game One press conference this afternoon, but first let’s run through the candidates…
Hiroki Kuroda on three days’ rest
Kuroda started Game Three of the ALDS, the first of this five games in five days stretch. He threw 105 pitches across 8.1 innings on Wednesday and would have to start Game Two tomorrow on short rest, something he has never done in his MLB career. Considering his age (37) and how his career-high workload (219.1 IP) seemed to be catching up to him in September, starting Kuroda on three days’ rest seems like a risky proposition.
It’s worth noting that if the Yankees bring CC Sabathia back on short rest of Game Three (which I am absolutely in favor of doing) and do not pitch Kuroda in Game Two, he would get pushed back to Game Four and therefore only make one start in the series even if it goes the full seven games. That is not ideal at all. Kuroda is too good to limit like that.
Although he threw 27 pitches out of the bullpen on Thursday, it shouldn’t be a problem to bring Phelps back tomorrow. He started and threw 86 pitches last Tuesday, so giving the team 80 pitches if needed in the spot start doesn’t feel like too much to ask. Phelps shouldn’t worry anyone considering how well he closed out the season, with just six runs allowed in his final 21 innings. The problem here is that if the Yankees use him for the start, he won’t be available out of the bullpen until at least Game Four and maybe even Game Five. That could be problematic, especially if Joba Chamberlain‘s bruised elbow keeps him out of action for even just the first few games of the series.
Ivan Nova or Freddy Garcia
No offense to these two, but I don’t think I can make a decent case that either should start. Both pitched so poorly down the stretch that they lost their rotation spots late in the season, and it would be wishcasting to run either of them out there expecting a full 100-ish pitch start that gives the Yankees a chance to win. They are options because they’re stretched out and have experience in the postseason, but they’re more “break glass in case of emergency” options that anything else.
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The Yankees announced earlier this morning that Cody Eppley took Eduardo Nunez‘s spot on the ALCS roster, giving the team a full 12-man pitching staff. That may be an indication that they’re leaning towards Phelps for the Game Two start but it’s not a guarantee; they could have easily added the extra reliever knowing both Kuroda and Sabathia will start on short rest and might not throw as many pitches as usual.
It’s worth noting that since Monday is a travel day, running through the entire bullpen in Game Two won’t be a concern since everyone is guaranteed rest the following day. It should also be a throw day for Phil Hughes, who could pitch in relief if needed. Bringing Sabathia back for Game Three means Phil would not start until Game Four on Wednesday at the earliest. Using him for an inning or two on Sunday has to be on the table.
The Yankees have replaced Eduardo Nunez on the ALCS roster with Cody Eppley, the team announced. Jayson Nix was moving fine in the ALDS, so his left hip flexor strain appears to be a non-issue going forward. The Tigers have a very right-handed pitching staff, so the extra righty bat wasn’t imperative. Joba Chamberlain is also on the roster despite the bruise on his right elbow after getting hit with a broken bat.
The addition of Eppley gives the Yankees a dozen pitchers and just a four-man bench, and could be an indication that David Phelps will get the Game Two start tomorrow. It could also mean they’re starting Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia on short rest in Games Two and Three, respectively, and want the extra arm in case they can’t throw as many pitches as usual. Who knows. Right now the only official pitching plan is Andy Pettitte in Game One tonight.