Doug Fister wasn't expected to provide much value in 2010. Stalled in West Tennessee Fister had been demoted out of the rotation to the bullpen. He got himself a ticket to Tacoma's bullpen in early 2009 and after 12.2 good innings re-entered the rotation. And that's when something clicked for him. Fister's walk rate went from 9.5% in West Tenn's rotation to 3.6% in Tacoma.
That was enough to get Fister a call up to the big club in late 2009. He got 10 starts last year and certainly did not wow anyone with remarkable stuff. Still, he managed a merely below average swinging strike rate and he continued his stinginess in allowing walks.
It was commonly thought that Fister would compete for the fifth starter's role long term and eventually be phased out by Erik Bedard. Instead, he made 28 starts and made them adequately. The good news is that Fister demonstrated that his current skill set could work over a full season. Even with an unassuming fastball, an okay change up and little else, Fister pounded the strike zone and avoided hard contact to a solid season.
Along with lasting the whole season, Fister continued to make gains on limiting walks and even boosted his ground ball rate to an above average level. But not everything was gravy. 2010 also saw Fister's swinging strike rate fall all the way to 4.4%, making him the qualified starting pitcher with the lowest rate in baseball.
Fister will continue to provide an intriguing case study in pitching effectiveness. What makes his fastball difficult to square up? Can he use his height to further leverage more ground balls and offset the expected decrease in strikeouts? Will he reverse that declining strikeout trend? How is he not pitching for the Twins? All these questions and more will continue to be pertinent in 2011.