It's A Special Day For Doug Fister

Today, February 4th, is Doug Fister's 27th birthday. That might be older than you thought, or younger than you thought, or right on. No offense to Doug Fister, but this post isn't really about the fact that he was born 27 years ago. I hope he gets a cake, but other than that I don't really give a hoot how his day goes.

Rather, I just want to give you some idea of how far Doug Fister has come by reflecting on what his career looked like when he turned 25. On February 4th, 2009, Fister was coming off the following season with AA West Tennessee:

5.43 ERA
3.0 BB/9
7.0 K/9

As a 25-year-old righty with a tall frame but an underwhelming repertoire, at that point, the odds were against Fister ever making it. Very much so, in fact; Fister wasn't on anyone's radar at all as a serious option for the future. He was organizational filler - destined to leave as a minor league free agent somewhere else before long - and nothing more.

Then something clicked. Fister himself can't really identify what changed, and offered the following explanation:

"During [2008] fall ball, I asked our pitching coordinator what they want out of me and he said they want to see me command the ball in the strike zone," Fister said.

"I want to put the ball where I want it any time on any count with any pitch.

"That's been my focus. I want to be able to put the ball within a three-inch circle where ever the catcher puts his glove."

So Fister, like every pitcher ever, wanted to be able to locate his pitches. But Fister, unlike almost every pitcher ever, suddenly figured out how to do it, and in 2009 he put up the following numbers as a starter with AA West Tenn and AAA Tacoma:

3.62 ERA
1.0 BB/9
6.8 K/9

That was good enough to earn him a call-up to the bigs in early August, and since then he's thrown 232 innings with the Mariners, doing this:

4.11 ERA
1.8 BB/9
5.0 K/9

Fister isn't a terrific young arm, it's too early to label him durable, and his pedestrian repertoire always makes one feel that he's on the verge of getting shredded. Doug Fister is far from a sure thing. But he's also proven that he can succeed at the highest level, and he's locked in to a rotation spot that he won't lose unless he gets hurt or badly declines.

Two birthdays ago, Doug Fister had to wonder whether he'd have to end up looking for a career in another line of work. Now, not only is he a big league starting pitcher; he's a big league starting pitcher with job security. That's a movie plot if I've ever heard one.

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