Game 9: Finally Fister

The first sign that Doug Fister wasn’t going to be bothered by 35-degree temperatures and a wind-driven rain came when he stepped onto the field without long sleeves. These were similar conditions to those that led Justin Verlander, who hates long sleeves, to wear them on Opening Day.

The next sign came when Fister started dropping curveballs. By the middle innings, he was repeating them, daring the aggressive Jays — who weren’t going to walk their way into a rally this time — to put one of those breaking balls in play. By game’s end, he had thrown 21 curveballs out of his 107 pitches. Two-thirds of those curveballs went for strikes, 11 of them for strikes not put in play, according to MLB.com’s Gameday data and brooksbaseball.net (though Jim Leyland indicated that some Jays hitters were chasing it out of the strike zone).

A look at Fister’s velocity graph, again thanks to brooksbaseball.net, shows pretty well how much Fister mixed his velocities.

fistervelocity041113

Weather like this around Detroit over this just-completed homestand left more than a few pitchers struggling to locate their breaking pitches. When asked how he managed to throw his so well, Fister initially shrugged it off, but later noted something important: He was able to make adjustments to tweak his pitches as the game went along.

For someone to do that in weather like this, and stick with the curve, is pretty impressive.

“A lot of it is mindset, staying with what works on a normal day, whether it’s 92 degrees or 35 degrees,” Fister said. “Just stick with what we’re trained to do. You find a little fine-tune adjustment through throwing it. It’s different in the bullpen. It’s different in the game.

“For me, it’s something that I’m always constantly working on in the game. If it’s short, there’s some things I need to do. If it’s high, more adjusting. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, wet, hot, or anything else.”

His catcher, Alex Avila, said the wet part might have been better for that.

“Actually, the rain probably helps a little bit, because you need a little bit of moisture,” Avila said. “When it’s really cold and just dry, it makes it tough, because the balls are real slick. You’ve just got no feeling.”

Either way, this was the pitching we’ve become accustomed, maybe a little spoiled, to seeing from Doug Fister. We didn’t see it during his Spring Training struggles, mainly because he struggled to command everything. We saw progress with it in last Friday’s home opener, though he pitch very deep into the game with it.

Fister called it a timing tweak, staying back in his delivery and using his legs more.

“Today was definitely a step in the right direction,” Fister said.

The Tigers didn’t have any of their starters get past the sixth inning the first turn through the rotation. Fister was the third starter in Detroit’s last four games to pitch through seven innings, with Max Scherzer still left to complete his second turn. If they can get through at least six innings regularly, the Tigers bullpen by committee has a better chance of working.

Play of the game: Andy Dirks’ throw-out at home probably fills this category and the next one, but short of that, Omar Infante’s bunt deserves some recognition as the play that broke open the add-on rally that put the game out of reach. The ball was seemingly headed foul at least twice, but somehow stayed on path just inside the line, loading the bases with nobody out. The Tigers missed a couple chances like this on this homestand, but with the top of the order due up, they weren’t going to miss this one.

Biggest out: Fister cited the importance of what Leyland calls the shutdown inning, holding the other team scoreless after a pitcher gets a big inning from his own offense, in discussing how big Andy Dirks’ throw home on Melky Cabrera turned out to be. It was the third inning, but the Tigers had just built a 6-1 lead, the same margin the Jays overcame Wednesday.

“That’s a huge momentum builder for everybody, whether it’s me as a pitcher or anybody else standing around,” Fister said. “For us to score that inning, come back and put up a zero, I think that’s a big thing. That’s one of the things my college coach would always harp on, made it a huge focus. Score first, but put up a zero right after that. I think that says a lot for the team.”

Strategy: Leyland said after the game he called for the bunt, and had no problem doing it up 6-1.

“It was 6-1 yesterday at one time in the sixth inning and they came back, so I was trying to add on runs,” Leyland said.

Line of the day: Josh Johnson allowed six runs on seven hits over 1 1/3 innings, throwing 56 pitches in the process. Yeesh.

Stat of the day: 3 — Steals of third base by Miguel Cabrera in his Tiger tenure, which is only slightly less than his triples total (four)

Print it: “I’m not a fast runner, so I need to be a little bit smart. If I have a chance to do something, I have to make sure I’m going to be safe, 100 percent. Because [if it's] 90 percent, I’m going to be out. I have to be sure.” — Miguel Cabrera on his steal of third

56 Comments

the graphic is an excellent overview of Fister’s outing. his approach to pitching is off the charts, no pun intended. when a guy changes speed and location effectively, keeping the hitter off-balance, it’s a remarkable feat to observe.

Agreed – love the graph of his velocity. Great game after the debacle on Wednesday and Fister was such a terrific addition to this team, what great deals we made to get Doug and Anibal the last few years.

last game max pitched in was that yankees game where he left in the 6th. He gave up a HR to v. wells on a 2seam fastball to start the 2nd, then a triple to boesch on a 4seam fastball and later a double to Overby on a changeup. Then he was ok until the 6th where he walked Cano and Youkillis to start the 6th. The 4th and 5th went well for him because they seemed to be chasing. Hopefully he can command that slider and 2 seamer better today.

I wish baseball would start in the South because of the weather and lack of attendance at the stadiums due to bad weather. This could also prevent injuries and you could start the season earlier to prevent bad weather in the Fall. The only knock I find on Fister is he used throw his fastball in the 88 to 92 m.p.h and now it is stuck at 87 to 88 m.p.h. Love the movement though.

The early season games do not have the same attendance as once school is out. The teams in the south and that have a roof would object to having all the early road games.

Fister’s velocity should increase with warmer weather. I would settle for the speed with the movement and command he had yesterday anytime he pitches. A straight 88 or 92 mph on a fastball is not much difference for a MLB hitter. Deception is the key for Fister.

They can get creative to make it fair for every team. I don’t think there is enough Southern and Dome teams to cover all of baseball. The two teams left out could use their spring training stadiums. You not talking about a lot of games. Fister at 92 with movement is way more effective then 87 with less movement. I think players should vote on it.

You would think they’d try to accomodate teams in the north and east coast by having them start out West or further south. But, Opening Day, is always end of March, first of April, so they have to
play at home anyway no matter what the conditions are.

I have noted the velocity issue before. You might be interested in reading a presumably archived article by FanGraphs about Fister and how the added velocity elevated him to the top tier of pitchers. Hope Fister recovers his mph.

wait which fastball are we talking about? Doug only threw 3, 4-seamers yesterday; abliet, they were btwn 87.77 and 88.87 like you say. They were thrown near the end of his outting.

Evan, check Pitch-by-Pitch on Gameday. Shows lots of fastballs 86-89.

those be 2 seamers…i looked at the 10-25-2012 performance and saw the 4 seamer was faster. Albeit not different enough for this to be a case of “he is throwing his 2 seamer not his 4 seamer so that’s why it looks like his heater is slow”.

Other than going back to 16 teams, there’s nothing to be done about the weather in April. The season starts a week earlier than it did 50 years ago, so that’s not much of a change. Washington just completed a 3-game series of night games with temps around 80, which is just as unusual as Detroit at 35 on the same day. That’s all I’ve got on that if I want to avoid a bizarre discussion of climate change.

i would never avoid such a conversation.

I know you wouldn’t, homey. :-)

Lots of oscillations in the climate system – and they operate on different scales. Hot for a few days, cold for a few days – and this happens on month and year scales too. Last spring – warm – this spring cold.

How about this, don’t schedule a team that will only appear in Detroit 1 time the whole year in April (ie Toronto). Schedule lots of KC/CWS/Minn games early so they can be made up easier.

Casey Crosby is the new Andy Oliver. Better trade him while you can.

We need depth in pitching, why trade a LHP who throws hard. ps. Oliver pitched well in his first game this year.

I don’t think Fister always needs a mid-90s fastball to be effective and I assume he has one in his back pocket if he ever needs one. Anyone ever get a radar reading on Mickey Lolich? Lots more to pitching than big fastballs. Keeping hitters off balance is the key.

Yep … See Mark Buerhle for most of his career.
.
— Bob

Found my self thinking – wow Peralta and Torii are really smashing right now – and Dirks and VMart really struggling to get hits. Well that makes sense then that Torii and Jhonny lead the team in BABIP with .472 and .423, and Dirks and Vmart have the lowest BABIPs with .167 and .154.
.
So as well suspected – things will likely regress to more normality for all 4 players.

Rich, the gist of the FanGraphs article(s) I earlier referred to indicated Fister’s velocity spike coupled with his elite control led to an above-average strikeout rate, which pushed him into an elite category as seen in 2011. Presumably the additional velocity allowed him to get swinging strikes and not just the called ones he got from getting hitters off balance.

Agreed. Fister is a good pitcher. He will only benefit from the inevitable increase in velocity. He’ll complement his “arsenal” and will use it to add and subtract as needed.

Well, he struck out 9 consecutive hitters last year as he topped out at 91. About 3 of 90, the rest below.
He’s not a strikeout pitcher anyway. Quick outs is his game, not high velocity pitches being fouled off.

Okay. Just thought I would pass it on. The analysis made sense to me.

during that game he threw 35 2 seamers (89.51 average mph)and 20 4 seamers (89.82mph avg). just fyi. he threw 13 sliders – all for strikes.

I understand the pitching philosophy, I just feel he will be even better when the weather warms and he can offset the change and the curve with a 2+ MPH sinker down and in.

in 2010 fister threw 454 4seamers at an average speed of 89.05, 373 in 2011 at an average of 90.71, 179 in 2012 at 89.75 and he’s thrown 20 in 2013 at an average speed of 88.13. according to brooks.
.
APPARENTLY he mostly throws sinkers.

Yeah. One of the FanGraphs articles noted the fastball decline, an almost 3mph average as noted by you from 2011 (90.71) to this year (88.13).

That’s why I earlier referred to 2011, which is the year the original FanGraphs article used as a base to promote Fister as an elite pitcher. His record and ERA with the Tigers supported that hypothesis. Just seems like better velocity added to Fister’s usual control and arsenal means more separation and a better chance for success.

And actually the article had a little different numbers approach than you.

Greinke injured. He is going for the record of most bizarres injuries

I m not saying it was his fault. But what timing for injuries

When Quentin charged the mound, I couldn’t help but flash back to Youkilis, with a crazed expression, coming after our prize 20 year old pitcher. How about we just rule that charging the mound is unacceptable and will result in a 50-game suspension, like PED use? Let the players settle it another way. That’s ridiculous that Greinke sustained a broken collarbone from some clown’s vendetta.

what are your reactions to that whole Quintin + Padres VS Grienke + dodgers thing? I think it’s funny how they are both al central guys

Not really funny, but familiarity breeds contempt.

RT @DannyKnoblerCBS: From Ozzie Guillen on Quentin in ’09: “Carlos is a guy who is going to get hit a lot b/c he stands on top of plate.”
And:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/carlos-quentins-hbp-zone/

“From Ozzie Guillen on Quentin in ’09 (after Greinke HBP): “Carlos is a guy who is going to get hit a lot because he stands on top of plate.”
Knobler too

Sorry. Morosi:
“Tweet from Oney Guillen: “greinke has hit carlos many many times … told me long long time ago. if he does it again im going for him.”

exactly. so the question is, do you think Quintin just snapped? Guy leads the league in getting hit – it’s not like the pitch in particular hurt him. Is there a way to look up who has hit him the most? What do you think Greinke said to him after he hit him? He said something!

why do he hate greinke so much?

Danny Knobler ‏@DannyKnoblerCBS 2h
Yes, Greinke has hit Quentin 3 times … in 31 plate appearances. Erik Bedard has hit Quentin 3 times in 9 plate appearances.
Expand Reply Retweet Favorite More
Jason Beck ‏@beckjason 1h
@DannyKnoblerCBS Including twice in the same game. http://bit.ly/170Tz0c

But:
“Since ’08 Greinke has hit Quentin 3 times in 31 PA. Greinke against all other hitters: 19 HBPs in 4,279 PA. ” Stark

Evans:
Nick Balckburn, 4
Our Justin :3.

http://goo.gl/q9l4I

Justin, just 2 in 40 PA

Why didn’t a Padres pitcher just throw at Greinke instead??? They’re in the NL. What’s with this UFC garbage?

We are talking about the player that hit a wall and injured himself

Bowden:
“When I asked Dave Dombrowski the last time he talked to another GM about a closer he responded “this week” Sirius 209 XM 89″

The Cubs could lose their second closer soon. Established closers are a sure thing

Regarding Quentin, there was some ugly stuff between Kemp and him in the tunnel/parking lot after the game

“The art of pitching, folks, the art of pitching,” as Jim Price always says. I don’t care how fast he throws. That’s not his forte. Location, location, location.

My son called me today and said he saw the fight on sportscenter and said Grienke hit him on purpose. He also called him a d***. You can tell, ma, you can tell.

Okay well, the three worst I can recall:
Juan Marichal clubbing John Roseboro over the head with a bat. (this one surprised me because Marichal is not that kind of person)
Bert Campaneris throwing a bat at Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.
Youkilis going after a skinny 20-year old and throwing his helmet at him as he charged.
You all may have your own lists.

I was sure that Marichal ( and Alomar, that was worse) would be excluded from the Hall for the Roseboro incident. Koufax caused it for not throwing at batters.

Pedro Martinez hitting the ground with Zimmer

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