Doug Fister is a quality major league pitcher. In fact, he was incredible for the Tigers after coming over from Seattle mid-season. In 70.1 regular season innings with Detroit, Fister posted an insanely good 1.79 ERA and struck out 57 batters to a minuscule five walks. That’s an 11.4 K/BB rate. Crazy.
So, yeah, Fister’s numbers with Detroit were beyond solid, but I’m far from buying in for 2012.
For starters, Fister benefited from an extremely low .245 BABIP in the second half of the season. He did hold a good 47.5 percent ground ball rate, but his line drive rate ended at about 20 percent, which is quite average. Now, determining what is and is not a line drive is up for debate and two people might see the same ball in play differently. That being said, if a ball in play is close enough to be called a line drive, chances are it was hit fairly well. Taking that into consideration, it seems that Fister definitely benefited from some good fortune while he was posting his incredible numbers with the Tigers.
The other reason I am quite skeptical of Fister’s second half performance was the quality of teams that he faced in those 70.1 innings: Cleveland four times, Kansas City twice and Baltimore, Minnesota and Oakland once each. The only teams with a winning record that Fister faced while with Detroit were Texas and Tampa, each once.
Am I saying that Fister will be a complete bust next season? Not necessarily. He still has good stuff, especially with the sink he added to his fastball in 2011. Fister basically went from a four-seamer, which he threw almost 62 percent of the time in 2010, to a combination of four-seamer and two seamer, which combined accounted for about 62 percent of his pitches thrown in 2011. Looking at release point data, it seems that Fister may have lowered his arm angle, though it’s hard to say if that’s not just a product of the difference in cameras between Seattle and Detroit.
The bottom line is that Fister has the tools to remain a quality MLB starter, but based on his 2011 numbers, he’s likely going to be overvalued in 2012 drafts. I have him projected for a 3.72 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 202 innings. Those are the type of numbers that I’d target in rounds 15-plus on draft day, but Fister is certainly not a name that will last that long.