On the one hand, I think that, for a game with that sort of ninth inning, this one didn't feel all that bad. I think we've all sort of been preparing ourselves for Aardsma to do that, and certainly after Paul Konerko led off by flying out to the wall, we realized that, okay, this is getting absurd. Aardsma's been the recipient of a good bit of luck on line drives and fly balls so far this year, and he was long overdue for a backbreaking homer. So with that in mind, I don't think anyone was surprised. We had this coming.
But on the other hand, here's the thing about regression: it doesn't really accomplish anything or get anything "over with." All it does is drag statistics towards their true-talent average. And I bring this up because it's tempting to view Aardsma's appearance tonight as something he just had to get out of the way before going back to being good again. That's not how it works. I know we all know this, but for some reason our brains are still wired to think that "all right, now that's out of his system," and that isn't true. Leaving aside specific variables, Aardsma is no more or less likely to blow his next save opportunity than he was this one, and that makes the loss all the more infuriating. Rather than get anything out of the way, all Aardsma managed to do tonight was drop this team a game in the standings, and though I knew what it all meant when it happened, it was only when I really thought about it afterwards that it started to sink in just how unpleasant this was. I don't care if Aardsma was overdue for something like this. On any given night, the odds that he saves the game are still higher than the odds that he blows it, and tonight we got it in the shorts.
That was one hell of a mistake that cost us the game. Alexei Ramirez is phenomenally weak for a guy with 13 homers, but when you're facing a fastball pitcher, and you prepare for the heat, and he throws you a splitter instead, and he misses up and inside, it's not that hard to get the bat head around and put a charge into the ball. By badly missing his location, Aardsma sped up Ramirez's bat to the point where it had enough juice to hit the ball out, and weak guy homers count just the same as the big guy ones do. Credit to Alexei for turning on that ball with lightning speed, but I don't know that Aardsma could've thrown a worse pitch if he tried.*
* Not that this expression means anything as far as Aardsma's concerned, since when you're dealing with pitchers with poor command, it doesn't really matter what they're trying to do.
Only one bullet point tonight, on a predictable topic:
- I didn't think much of Doug Fister when he first got the call, and I definitely didn't think much of him when I saw his ML debut on Saturday, but tonight, if only for a night, he gets to sleep the sleep of a champion. For a guy with his stuff, he threw as good a game as could be reasonably expected. All the outcomes:
56 strikes (60%)
7 swinging strikes
4 fly balls (2 pop ups)
1 line drive
Pitch n Velocity FA 61 88.2 CH 19 79.7 SL 9 82.4 CU 5 74.0
Billed as a guy with plus command who pounds the strike zone (68% strikes and only 10 walks in 93.2 innings as a starter in AAA), it might seem strange to see that Fister threw as many balls and walked as many batters as he did tonight, but anyone who watched the game could tell he was getting squeezed. Lance Barksdale wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt on anything, and if you go back through each of Fister's four walks, here's what you get:
-Gordon Beckham, top 1: third pitch in strike zone, called ball
-Chris Getz, top 3: 11-pitch PA; fourth and eleventh pitches in strike zone, called balls
-Chris Getz, top 5: first and third pitches in strike zone, called balls
-Jermaine Dye, top 6: legitimate walk
Three of Fister's four walks came of some questionable calls, and even the Dye walk happened when Fister just narrowly missed his spots outside. So, yeah, I don't think his numbers tell the right story. Fister's no magician by any means, but tonight he did do a pretty damn good job of locating, and though it's weird to say this about a guy who allowed all of one hit, he probably deserved a better line, at least as far as the control numbers are concerned.
As for the stuff, Fister's repertoire obviously isn't particularly special. If it were, he'd be a prospect. He has an ordinary fastball that never broke 90 and three offspeed pitches that contribute more by being part of a variety than they do on their own. It's a fairly typical arsenal, and on a few occasions he'd throw a pitch that would get missed or fouled off or put weakly into play and I'd wonder how it wasn't landing in one of the bullpens. But then I used to think the same thing about Chris Young when he was good, too, so it's possible that there's just something extra tricky about facing a giant that doesn't come across on TV.
The statistical evidence we have on Fister says that he isn't very good. Though he's always been able to throw strikes, he's never been a big groundball guy, and he doesn't miss a lot of bats. His swinging strike rate with Tacoma was barely better than that of Jakubauskas. That said, anyone who's able to come up and do what Fister did tonight deserves a greater opportunity to show what he can do, and if Fister can induce swinging strikes from big bats like Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Quentin, then hey, who knows? All I can say for sure is that, for six innings, Doug Fister inspired confidence the way others seldom have. He may not always be able to spot the ball as well as he did against Chicago, and in fact I'd wager that he won't, but with that dynamite performance, he's earned another chance to get blown up. It it happens, no one'll be too shocked and the team will carry on without batting an eyelid, but if it doesn't, then by Jove, we may just have something.
It's never wise to evaluate a player by his peak performance. With his game tonight, though, Doug Fister has made that rather hard to avoid. I'd say that must mean he had quite the debut.