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Some Thoughts On Day 12 Of The 2011 MLB Playoffs

Doug Fister started for the Tigers tonight, and he won. Behind 2-0 in the ALCS to a Texas Rangers team that seems to lack any visible and significant flaws, the Tigers had their backs against the wall, and they handed the ball to Fister, needing a win. Fister won. Obviously, we don't really care about pitcher wins around here - we've never cared about pitcher wins, not even for purposes of mockery - but if pitcher wins were different, if they were devised in a more sensible way such that pitchers who deserve wins are assigned wins and pitchers who do not deserve wins are not assigned wins, Fister would've earned a win. He pitched into the eighth inning, he didn't walk anybody, and he allowed just two runs.

Fister pitched his ass off, and it was just the latest instance in which Fister has pitched his ass off this season. He's become a guy the Tigers trust, a guy the Tigers look forward to pitching - in the playoffs, no less - and it's worth taking this opportunity, and probably almost every opportunity, to reflect on how far he has come.

Not that many of you need to be reminded. Fister is a virtual unknown to the national audience, but he was a Mariner for two years, and he was Mariners property for much longer than that. Mariners fans know Fister's story better than anyone else. But there's one table, one very simple table, that I think drives the point home:

Level BB% K%
2008, AA 7.7% 16%
2011, MLB 4.0% 17%

Three years ago, as a starter in double-A, Doug Fister walked one in 13 batters, and struck out about one in six. This season, as a starter in the Major Leagues, Doug Fister walked one in 25 batters, and struck out about one in six.

Maybe it seems too simple. So Doug Fister halved his walk rate. That's impressive, but it's not amazing, right? Well, for one thing, yeah, that is kind of amazing. He cut his walk rate in half. But more importantly, it's about the levels. Those 2008 numbers came in double-A. At that point, Fister was a 24-year-old non-prospect repeating the level. This year, he halved that walk rate in the Majors without losing any strikeouts. That's what's truly amazing.

People love young players because they expect that young players will develop and improve with experience, but seldom do you see a young pitcher do something along the lines of what Fister has done. Especially a young pitcher like Fister who, while not possessing bad stuff, won't ever be considered electric. Josh Collmenter's an example of a guy who might've made a similar leap, but it's too soon to tell. You could argue that Collmenter is kind of gimmicky, but that argument doesn't hold water for Fister.

Doug Fister's a good Major League starter now. One of the better ones, albeit clearly a tier or two behind the best. The big question is, how much further can he go? Is he going to hang out where he is? Is he preparing to go full Cliff Lee on everybody a year or two down the road? I don't know the answer to that, but I'm looking forward to finding out, even though Fister's in another uniform. Top-of-the-rotation starters are so much more interesting when they were never supposed to become top-of-the-rotation starters.

As a Mariner in 2010-2011, Fister posted a K/BB around 3.0. Since going to the Tigers, and including the playoffs, that's up to 7.8. Maybe that's progression. Maybe that's noise. We'll have a much better idea a year from now.

Doug God damned Fister. Good pitcher, and playoff hero. This past season with double-A Jackson, a 24-year-old Andrew Carraway walked 25 and struck out 106 in almost 140 innings. His repertoire isn't great, and he's not real high on any organizational prospect lists. But who the hell knows, right? Most of the time, it doesn't click. Sometimes, it clicks.

  • It occurred to me watching the game tonight that Comerica Park's pitcher-friendliness is overstated. Presumably because of its batshit center field and original dimensions upon construction, Comerica's thought to be a pitcher-friendly ballpark, even though the StatCorner park factors tell me it's basically neutral. A park whose pitcher-friendliness is understated would be Tropicana Field. That shit's borderline extreme. StatCorner has Tropicana as being just about as pitcher-friendly as Safeco. Who knew! (StatCorner knew.)

  • Early on, Adrian Beltre fouled a few pitches off his left knee, and went down to the ground in pain. When he got back up, he hit a grounder to third base, and couldn't really run it out. In the dugout, he was looked after by the trainers, and then he grabbed his glove and jogged to the field to play defense. Beltre never came out of the game. One interpretation is that Adrian Beltre is just really tough, and won't let a deep knee contusion keep him down. Another interpretation is that Adrian Beltre set an impossible bar for himself when he played through a damaged testicle a few years ago, and now can't come out even when he has to because if you play through a damaged testicle, you play through everything.

    Washington: Oh, your knee hurts?
    Washington: Shake it off. You played through a damaged testicle!
    Washington: Go get 'em!
    Beltre: /whimpers

  • Speaking of playing through injury, Victor Martinez hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, and as he swung, he strained his oblique. He went straight to the clubhouse after returning to the dugout, and his status for the remainder was in question. Then, in the next inning, he came up to bat.

    As a reminder, you might remember that Chris Gimenez was forced to play through a strained oblique earlier in the season. This is what he looked like at the plate. In a big spot, Gimenez inexplicably tried to bunt, and then he watched a 3-2 pitch fly right down the middle. It turned out this was because Gimenez was physically incapable of swinging because his oblique hurt so bad.

    Martinez came to bat. In the on-deck circle, he never took a practice swing. In the batter's box, he never took a swing. He walked on five pitches.

    I wondered then whether the Rangers knew Martinez was hurt. Maybe they didn't. Many of the fans didn't. That would be one partial explanation for the walk. But then maybe Martinez wasn't hurt that bad after all, because he batted again two innings later, and swung at the first pitch. I don't know. The whole sequence was strange.

  • When a team knocks out the opposing starting pitcher with a few hits or runs, it's sometimes said that the pitcher was chased from the game. I refuse to investigate the origin of this term because I choose to believe that at one point it was true.

  • Inspired by an @LoneStarBall tweet this evening, Michael Young has now come to the plate 98 times in the playoffs the last two years. He's batted .213 with a .522 OPS. I'm not going to come out and declare that Michael Young is a postseason choker because this is obviously just a sinister small sample size at work, but I wouldn't mind if the media started in on this whole angle anyway. You know, for funsies.