Don’t Press The Panic Button on Doug Fister

Standard

From the get-go, it didn’t look all too great last night. Even with a half full O.Co colliseum, a low stakes game and a huge ballpark, Doug Fister just did not have it last night. He gave up three home runs and took the loss for the Nats. But don’t, repeat, don’t, press the panic button just yet.

Even though the Nationals’ 4th starter has been traditionally bad these past two years, Fister should be different. One bad game happened for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is that it was basically his Opening Day, he was amped, and didn’t have his A stuff, since he was focused on things too mentally. Basic plays like the throw to first in the first inning would get done during the rest of the year – it’s quite literally jitters.

This is also an Oakland team that has studied Detroit and their pitchers for the past two years, as they’ve played each other in two ALDS series since 2012. Doug, being traded from the Tigers, had seen them many times. This team was not unfamiliar with him from those experiences, or just seeing him as a Mariner or Tiger.

Another large reason here is the injury. The arm and all looked fine last night – but he hasn’t faced real batters all year. He missed the end of Spring Training, which is actually crucial for pitchers to see batters that are going to be in the big leagues and actually trying. The last team he faced was a AA team.

So, please. History repeats itself, but it’s highly unlikely it will in this case of Doug Fister.

Advertisements

Is Doug Fister the Nationals’ Missing Piece?

Standard
Is Doug Fister what brings the Nationals a World Series Parade?

Is Doug Fister what brings the Nationals a World Series Parade? (CBSSports)

Hey everyone, this post was a collaboration between me and Matt Eisner, the Nationals youth pro-blogger. If you want to see more of his work, go to mattsbats.com or follow him on Twitter at @MattsBats.

Two hours down the long California freeways from San Francisco lies the Northern California town of Merced. A small, sleepy town, it doesn’t look like much to the naked eye. However, it is the home of a few notable people – NBA All Star Shooting Guard Ray Allen, the C.E.O. of YouTube – and Doug Fister.

Merced, California (Engadget)

Merced, California (Engadget)

One of the newest and most exciting additions to the Nationals roster for the 2014 season is pitcher Doug Fister.  Fister, a starter acquired from the Tigers, may be the proven veteran in the Nats rotation that Mike Rizzo has been hoping to find for many years.  He may also be the missing link in the rotation for taking the Nationals to the playoffs. But where did that start? Let’s go back a few years.

Doug grew up the son of Larry, a fire captain and police SWAT team member, and Jan, a homemaker. He grew up interested in baseball, woodworking, and remodeling cars.  As a kid, he would take apart his mom’s appliances and then put them back together again, just for fun. (He still has a love for tinkering – this winter, even though he could afford the best builder in California, he rebuilt his own bathroom – just for fun.) Doug grew up a fan of the nearby A’s and Giants.  He was also a fan of the “Iron Man” Cal Ripken, Jr.

Doug went to Golden Valley High School, and played high school ball for the Cougars. He was a pitcher and a utility player, and he hit .425 in his senior year. He was drafted by the nearby Giants as a first baseman, but decided to play baseball in college.  After graduating from Golden Valley, he decided to go to Merced Junior College for two years. In those two years, he was a junior college All Star, and struck out 29 players in just 30 innings pitched. He went on to Division I Fresno State and, in 2006, was voted to the ESPN All-District team, with a 3.33 ERA.  Doug was also a good student, with a 3.31 GPA in liberal studies and planned to be an elementary school teacher if he didn’t make it to The Show. The Fresno State Bulldogs, as they were called, went to the NCAA tournament that year, but fell to Cal State Fullerton in the Regional Finals that year.

After watching big names like Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer being picked, Doug Fister was selected with the fifth pick in the seventh round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners.  His dream came true as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig introduced him as a professional ballplayer.

After rising relatively quickly through the Mariners’ organization,

(Hardball Talk - NBC Sports)

On the Mariners(Hardball Talk – NBC Sports)

he made his major league debut on August 8, 2009 with one inning of shutout pitching. Three days later, he started his first game against the White Sox, and eventually finished that season 3-4. The next year, he was given the chance to become a regular starter. He got the job, and posted a 6-14 record with a 4.11 E.R.A. Even with those rough numbers, many people saw the potential in the tall kid from Merced.

On the trade deadline of 2011, after a rough 3-12 start, the Mariners shipped Doug Fister away to the Detroit Tigers. After that trade, he went 8-1, and had a 1.71 E.R.A in ten starts as a Tiger. After two playoff wins, things were looking good for Doug

Fister celebrating in the clubhouse after defeating the Yankees in the ALDS (CBSSports)

Fister celebrating in the clubhouse after defeating the Yankees in the ALDS (CBSSports)

Fister and the Tigers. 2012 had potential to be a big year for them.

Although injured for a portion of the beginning of the 2012 season, Fister came back strong, and managed a 10-10 record that year, recorded a shutout and, in all of his playoff games, did not give up more than two runs in any game, in up to seven innings of work. Doug was a large part in the Tigers’ 2013 Division Championship run. Not only did he post a career high in wins, win percentage and strikeouts, but kept the eventual World Series champions, the Red Sox, to one run over six innings in the ALCS.

On the evening of December 3, 2013, a high school senior in Boston, Chris Cotillo, broke the news that Fister was being traded for the second time of his career.  In a move that surprised the baseball world, Doug Fister was traded to the Washington Nationals for utility player Steve Lombardozzi, rookie pitcher Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray.  For a deal like this, it was hard for Nats fans not to be excited.

The Nationals are hoping that Doug Fister fills a role in their rotation that they tried unsuccessfully to do with Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren in 2012 and 2013.  Fister is a seasoned veteran going on 5 years of major league experience with lots of postseason experience.  With his clutch pitching and intimidating height, he could be a force to be reckoned with in the already solid rotation. Most likely, he will slot in as the Nats’ fourth starter, although on most teams he would probably slot higher.  Most expect that Nationals starting rotation to go Strasburg (R), Gonzalez (L), Zimmermann (R), Fister (R), and the fifth spot to be decided in Spring Training between Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan or possibly even Christian Garcia.  With a lineup that strong, Fister could even go #5 for real right-left, right-left rotation.  He could also slot in higher in the rotation to mess with hitters’ timing– while Strasburg can go 95 mph and Gio and J-Zimm also throw heat in the 90s, Fister’s fastball tops out in the high 80s but with major accuracy and a sinker that induces a lot of infield outs.  Imagine what it would be like as a batter playing a four game series against the Nats facing Strasburg’s fastball on Monday, Gio’s wicked curve on Tuesday, Zimmerman’s change in velocity on Wednesday, and Fister’s nasty sinker on Thursday.

Doug Fister introducing himself at NatsFest, with Jerry Blevins and Mike Rizzo. (Scott Ableman, FLICKR)

Doug Fister introducing himself at NatsFest, with Jerry Blevins and Mike Rizzo. (Scott Ableman, FLICKR)

One big way Doug Fister can help is in the clubhouse. In my opinion, one of the biggest problems last year was the atmosphere behind the scenes, due to the loss of clubhouse guys Mark DeRosa and Michael Morse. With the help of Nate McClouth, Jerry Blevins and Jose Lobaton, he could change that. He will be the oldest of the Nationals starting pitchers and has a calm personality that will probably make him fit in well with teammates Strasburg and Zimmermann. He’s also just a generally fun guy to hang around with, according to many teammates and coaches.

However, the biggest reason Doug Fister can make the Nats a championship team, is the simple fact that he is an amazing pitcher. Even while he was pitching in the third most hitter-friendly ballpark in the country, he posted great numbers throughout his tenure as a Tiger. He succeeds by throwing well-placed pitches and getting hitters to swing on top of the sinker that drops like a rock, which means lots of groundballs to guys like Zimmerman, Desmond and Rendon/Espinosa. Walks are also a rarity with him.

In college, he studied to be a teacher – but went to baseball instead. But hopefully, he can teach the younger guys what has made him excel, and his calm. “Just do your job” attitude.  Doug Fister has seen a lot of postseason play with the Tigers, and in those high pressure situations he’s posted a 2.98 E.R.A. for an average of six innings a game.

The Nats already had the potential to be a great team, but with the addition of Doug Fister, they may have taken the leap to become a World Series team.

Fister told USA Today, he is going to “approach every day trying to get better and trying to make it to October.”

Hopefully, we’ll see him there this Fall.

This article was independently researched. However, if you want  another good article on this, please look at  washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/nationals-doug-fister-knows-he-can-be-of-service/2014/02/14/a0592b16-95c2-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html

The baseball offseason in review

Standard

There are quite a few holidays in the good ol’ U.S.A. Christmas, July 4th, Labor Day, Presidents Day, Easter, Hanukkah, and my personal favorite after Hanukkah: Opening Day. However, there is one more I didn’t list there. The day that pitchers and catchers report.

The month is February, and the days are short, gray and cold. But you know, that somewhere in Southern Florida or Arizona, the boys of summer are getting ready. Maybe they’re just catching up on what happened in those long months or sharing glory from the World Series, or doing basic drills. But they’re back in uniform, in the heat, and everyone is optimistic. That will change for most teams, but this is the most hopeful day. So, as baseball starts up again, we have to look back at the offseason.

The first thing was managerial positions, the most important thing in my opinion. Former players like Matt Williams & Brad Ausmus both got the most appealing jobs, for the Nationals and Tigers. Lloyd McClendon, Bryan Price and Rick Rentaria all joined the Mariners, Reds and Cubs, respectively.

Back in November, which feels like forever ago at this point, the first truly major name switched teams. Tim Hudson left the Atlanta Braves for the Giants on a two year deal.

However, the real stuff didn’t start for another few days. This was one of the most unexpected deals, with Prince Fielder being traded to the Rangers for cash and Ian Kinsler.

This shocked the baseball world in ways more than one. However, I feel like I said something about this a while back…

After this, the bigger deals started. Jhonny Peralta went to the Cardinals, and before you could say that “The Cardinals are the Yankees of the NL!” The Yankees made a splash and a half by signing Jacoby Elisbury and Carlos Beltran, creating a starting outfield with a combined age of 96 and 3 other outfielders including Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano. Sheesh.

This is where it gets interesting for Nats fans. For barely anything unless you are a citizen of Natstown, The Nats acquired Doug Fister for prospect Robbie Ray and second baseman/utility man Steve Lombardozzi. Even more interestingly, the deal was reported by a high schooler.

Next, a confusing three-team deal sent Mark Trumbo to the D-Backs. The next day, the Nats traded for Jerry Blevins, a lefty reliever. The day right after that, Nate McClouth made the cross-beltway journey to join the Nats as a utility man. Right after, Mike Napoli resigned with the Red Sox, and beards everywhere rejoiced. However, the biggest deal of the offseason was yet to come. The Seattle Mariners somehow got their hands on Robinson Cano, for ten years and $240 million.

Trying to replace the big bat that Helton provided, Morneau decided that he would spend the next two years in Colorado. The Giants then added Michael Morse. The final big deal before the new year was Sin Soo Choo signing with the Rangers for seven years. Jamey Carroll came back to Natstown, again, except he’ll start (in all likelihood) in Syracuse. Right before MLB approved instant replay, A-Rod was suspended, and it was announced he would miss all of the 2014 season.

Coincidentally, the final “really big deal” happened when the Yankees spent the A-Rod money on Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees.

The final relatively important deals were made on January 26th, when Matt Garza signed with the Brewers.

The only big names that remain are Nelson Cruz, A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

So, if there’s anything I missed, I apologize. It’s pretty hard to put an entire offseason into 700 words.

But everything is in place for an awesome season. What will be a bust? What will work? What was stupid? What was smart? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, see you on Opening Day!

Rotations, Rotations – The odd reason the Nats have the best rotation in baseball

Standard
On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation. Now, there are, and they aren't that bad.

On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation for the Nats. Now, there are, and they aren’t that bad.

Ever since the end of the steroid era, pitching has been the key element of most teams. If they haven’t developed their own ace rotation, they’ve signed one. And at this moment, it’s seeming like they’re only getting more important and bigger contracts.

Clayton Kershaw is going to be payed roughly $147,000 dollars per inning he pitches for the next seven years. Justin Verlander is commanding 180 million for the next five or six years. Felix Hernandez has also gotten a huge seven 7 year deal. Rookies like Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Michael Wacha and players before their fifth year or not free agents yet like Stephen Strasburg & Jordan Zimmermann are expected to get about as much. Unfortunately, one pitcher does not win a world series.

The four men behind the ace are just as important, if not more. If you only had one reliable winning pitcher, you would win around 1/5 of your games. Having three good pitchers has always been considered acceptable. However, baseball has probably never seen a time like this in which the rotations are so strong for so many teams.

But who’s rotation is the best heading into this season?

While I love what the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, A’s and Cardinals have, I think that it is the Nats. And not for the reason you may think.

As a Nationals fan last year, I learned something very important. There is a need for more than five pitchers in a rotation. You need that number six and seven as much as you need your ace. Last year, the Nats were supposed to be dominant with everything. However, they surprised everyone, starting the year in a slump and with really only two reliable pitchers. While they finished off better than they started, it was an annoying year. Strasburg was hurt for about a month, and Ross Detwiler barely played half a season. They called up players from Triple-A, but it wasn’t the same. While Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark held things up for the most part, the Nats realized that not having a sixth starter in the lineup killed them, or at least partially. (Not hitting until September also probably hurt.)

This year, they have too many problems with that. There is an argument over who will have the number one slot, but I think everyone knows it’s Strasburg’s to lose. This is the year he needs to prove he is an ace. Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Fister were all very good last year, but the number five slot is a curious thing. Some people say that Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark should take it, while normal number five Ross Detwiler can move to the bullpen as a power lefty. I disagree, and say keep the National Det in the rotation, and have Jordan and Roark as backup. But it really comes down to what new manager Matt Williams sees in Spring Training.

The Red Sox & Cardinals probably have the best depth with players like Lester, Buchholz, Wainwright and Wacha, and the Tigers have probably have the better rotation, but the depth nor the rotation is as complete for any one of them is as good as the one in our Nation’s Capitol.

However, offseason predictions aren’t always correct. Who had the Red Sox winning the world series last year? (Hint: Literally nobody)

But even with the unreliability of predictions, I still like the Nats’ chances.

9 things to expect next year from the MLB

Standard

It’s a new year, and I decided I wanted to think about something that’s been in the back of our mind, the MLB – or for me, a bit further up, due to my Nats’ heartbreaking loss in the NLDS . So without any further ado, 9 things to expect next year.

1. ROY =  MVP: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both pretty stellar, but they can only get better, and will thrive after experience given from the first season, and will be ready to dazzle you at the plate and in the field – expect them to be frontrunners or a big threat in the MVP conversation.

2. The Yankees will not make the playoffs, and the O’s will be a wild card: The Yankees are getting older, and a lot of them past their prime. They are still going to be pretty good, but will not be a big threat, or as big as they were. The O’s have kept the big core of last year’s team that came very close to an ALCS.

3. The Blue Jays win the AL East: I’m sort of shocking myself here – I usually never say that teams who put together tons of talent from different teams win, except for the Yankees. But if Dickey, Johnson and Buehrle can have bounce back or equivalent seasons from last, the Blue Jays should be able to do it.

4. Stephen Strasburg will win the NL Cy Young award: He’s gone through his rookie phenom stage, his rehab, return and shutdown.His confidence has been boosted by quite a bit, and is ready to shine – now that he has the experience, the confidence and the team behind him, he’s a shoo-in for Cy Young.

5. Justin Verlander will win the AL Cy Young award: I’m sure he’s pretty annoyed – swept in the world series, so this is going to be another big year for him – he’ll be determined and ready, plus with an upgraded offense, and some world series experience – it’s all a formula for his second Cy Young.

6. The Dodgers and Angels will NOT make the playoffs this year: Why, you say? Because usually, the best formula is chemistry between players – and I have the feeling these teams will just be a mix of random chemicals, leading up to a great big ol’ explosion.

7. A-Rod will be benched by midseason: His poor postseason effort, his injury prone-ness, and his general decline in play will mean the Yankees will have a different 3rd baseman by July.

8. The division champs will be the: Nats, Reds, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers and Rangers.

9. The Washington Nationals will be world series champions. The Nats have kept the core, with only one player from last year’s starting lineup not being there, Mike Morse or Adam LaRoche. Plus, with a true leadoff hitter, Strasburg for the entire season, Harper with experience as well as the rest of the team, the Rotation mostly staying the same, plus adding playoff experience and bench players who could start on almost any team will be a recipe for a World Series trophy.

Award Time!!

Standard

It’s that time of year again – when teams without playoff hope go into despair, and put their attention on new managers and draft picks, and the contenders go into all-out win mode. Plus, the talk heats up about these small awards. So, without any further ado, my MLB award picks.

AL ROY:

Mike Trout: 29 Homers. .321 BA. 47 stolen bases. 79 RBI. Quite a few wall catches. Have I said enough?

NL ROY:

Bryce Harper: It’s not been a record batting average, but 21 homers, 95 runs and 58 RBIs(and counting) look pretty good for a teenager. This guy knows how to turn on a team’s excitement, energy, and play. Every game you watch him, he does something that you expect to be on SportsCenter’s top plays. If he’s 19 and doing this already – you have to give him the nod for Rookie of the Year.

AL MVP:

This is tough. But unless Miguel Cabrera can get the triple crown, I have to give this guy the nod. Don’t get me wrong, there is tons of competition that is being overlooked because of a 21 year old who is one home run away from being a member of the 30/30 club. Robinson Cano has a .301 average, 30 homers and 83 ribbies.  Josh Hamilton is the AL leader with 43 home runs and has 130 RBI. Adam Jones puts up a fight as well. But if you put together a for sure gold glover, member of the 30/30 club, a .321 BA, 47 stolen bases and 79 RBI, only one person is that well rounded and incredible, so you have to hand Mike Trout the AL MVP award.

NL MVP: Nobody noticed, and I’ll admit I didn’t notice them for a while either. But Ryan Braun, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina were all quietly having incredible seasons. However, the public’s loss of faith in Braun has brought the race down to these two. Which brings us to a question: Molina or Posey? So, with general play, attitude, team play and leadership, I had to go through the Moneyball approach. Who’s stats beat the others? They were both very close or the same in BA and Home runs. But the one category there was a real difference in – RBI. Posey is at 100, while Molina is 25 behind him at 75, and with every other category close, and adding on a NL West Division championship, I have to give the nod to Buster Posey as NL MVP. 

AL Cy Young: David Price has been quietly dominant with his 2.56 ERA speaking for itself, as well as a 19-5 record. So give the nod to him – because in all honesty – there isn’t much competition – and while Verlander could get the award for the second time, he only has 16 wins, so you have to give the nod to price.

Manager of the year NL:  You have to go with Davey Johnson. If you can bring a team from under .500 to the best record in baseball, especially in a division with the Braves and Phillies you have a vote in my book.

Manager of the year AL: Buck Showalter has basically done the same thing Davey Johnson has done, except without the Division Champs part, and only 45 minutes away, too! Just like Davey, he had to fight the competition in the division to do it too. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if there was a beltway battle for the world series.

NL Cy Young: This, by far is the hardest one for me. R.A Dickey’s E.R.A and knuckleball shine up in New York. Craig Kimbrel looks pretty good in Atlanta, and pretty unstoppable now that you mention it. Johnny Cueto, despite the no-hitter that wasn’t his looks pretty good at 19-9 with a 2.81 ERA. But none of them are both the ace and leading their team into the playoffs, which was the deciding factor for me in this. He stepped up big time when the limelight fell on him after number one was gone. He is the first, and so far the only pitcher with 21 wins, plus 207 strikeouts, and his 2.89 ERA seals the deal for me – so I give the nod to, you guessed it, Gio Gonzalez.

There are many other possibilities for all of these – and I’m not saying I should be right – but in my opinion, these guys deserve the awards.

A reality check for three teams – good and bad.

Standard

REALITY CHECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 teams just were handed losses today – some of them one of their first, one of them their fifth. Does the pain actually help? Maybe.

The Tigers were undefeated in 5 games before today. Justin Verlander was pitching, which seems like a pretty secure win to most teams. And it was a good game for him, at least until the top of the ninth. After giving up a run and getting two batters on board, it was time to leave. Unfortunately, Tigers relief couldn’t close it out, and they lost to the Rays. Which may be just what the doctor ordered for the Destroyers from Detroit. Why, you ask? Simple. A team that good, needs a good reality check about 79 times a year. Being good isn’t enough for teams in this league, you have to be better. And it proves – the Red Sox weren’t taking that reality check last summer, and collapsed at the end because they decided they didn’t need to keep working.

Now, for the Mets, since they were (past tense) undefeated and then lost two games to the Nationals, that’s a serious reality check. In the division they reside in, good isn’t good enough. Great isn’t good enough. Now, while this goes for every division, it really matters in the NL East. In all likelihood, there will be three NL East teams in the playoffs, and the Mets are a bit of a long shot. A loss makes them realize they are, still, the Mets. Which means they don’t have a leadoff batter. Or power hitter. Or shortstop. So, if anything, those losses were a reminder – if they want to finish even scarcely close to a playoff spot, they have to work harder than any other team in that division, even though they may not be the best.

The Red Sox have just been handed their fifth loss. In May, that’s incredible. In April – that’s horrible. The one game they win, is against Toronto, which is a fourth place in the division team. Not the best win, but they’ll take it. Losing to the Tigers doesn’t worry me, the Tigers are good. Losing two of three to the Jays, that does worry me. The Red Sox need to get back up and prove they aren’t knocked down with one punch, because at the end of last year, it seemed like it. The Red Sox need to wake up, and realize that last year was a dream turned nightmare. Getting back up and getting a playoff spot is a must for them. But trying so hard, they haven’t done much. They have to outlast the competition, and play very hard – until the end of October, because they forgot to do that, and guess what happened….