Newest National Fister is Excited – Fans should be as well

  • Ralph Thompson Jr
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Mark Zuckerman of interviewed new Nationals’ starting pitcher Doug Fister last Saturday at the NatsFest gathering. Fister, who turns 30 on 4 February, is excited to be a part of a strong rotation. He’s a ground-ball pitcher primarily. In addition, he has nearly a 3.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for his major league career. No, he’s not a hard thrower. But, if/he follows Jordan Zimmermann in the rotation, Fister should be a nice contrast in style and stuff to the guy in front of him. He’s got good enough control to take advantage of the usually very good-to-excellent Nationals’ team defense.

Let’s use a handful of statistics to compare the Tigers’ rotation Fister leaves behind to the Nationals’ rotation he joins:

Detroit – Justin Verlander, Max  Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello (excluding fifth starter to be named). Averages for the four remaining starters, 2013 season – 197.8 innings, 176.3 hits allowed, 72.5 earned runs allowed, 56.8 bases on balls, 200.3 strikeouts, 1.180 WHIP.

Washington – Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Fister (excluding fifth starter to be named). Averages for the four, with Fister’s Detroit stats, 2013 season – 199.9 innings pitched, 181.5 hits allowed, 74 earned runs allowed, 54 bases on balls, 175.8 strikeouts, 1.174 WHIP.

Looking at these select numbers, the two sets of stats are fairly even. The Tigers had more a few more strikeouts, the Nationals (plus Fister) had a slightly better WHIP. Fister’s numbers in these areas weren’t as good as his new pitching mates (except for bases on balls – Fister had fewer than Gonzalez or Strasburg). However, if he gives Washington a level of performance in 2014 similar to what he gave Detroit in 2013, the Nationals will be appreciative. The Nationals will also increase their chances of getting off to a better start in 2014. Fans remember 2013’s number four starter Dan Haren and his difficult start. Fister being consistently effective should get Washington a couple or more early wins. In turn, that may prevent Washington from falling off pace of the leader in the National League East.

Zuckerman mentioned Fister’s upcoming arbitration hearing. Reportedly, the player seeks $8.5M. The team’s initial counter-offer is $5.75M. General Manager Mike Rizzo has shown a willingness to spend to strengthen perceived weaknesses. Expect the player and the front office to split the difference, somewhere around the $7M range.

Once the contract issue is settled, expect Fister to enter camp distraction-free and eager to get off to a strong start. Leading the Nationals to a post-season berth would set Fister up nicely for a multi-year payday after 2014.

Given the starting pitcher depth in the Nationals’ farm system, Fister is pitching for his future, whether with the Nationals or another team. Rizzo would probably prefer a long-term fixture in the number four spot in the rotation. Fister gets to prove in 2014 he deserves that slot for the future.

For the team, if Fister is steady in his 30 or so starts this year, it relieves pressure on the rest of the rotation. If Fister stays near his career average of 6 or so innings per start, it may stabilize the bullpen. As guys like Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano settle into their roles for 2014, the rest of the team can play with the confidence that the relief staff will get outs and preserve leads. A productive Fister will have a beneficial effect to the whole Nationals’ roster.


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