Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers had an outstanding start against the Chicago Cubs yesterday, fanning 14 over six innings while allowing just three hits and one walk. This comes on the heels of an excellent start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 9th (eight innings, one run, five strikeouts). And as you likely know, Fiers spent most of the season blowing away hitters in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 2.55 ERA with a 129/17 K/BB in 102 innings for Nashville, allowing just 80 hits.
It has been easy for analysts to dismiss Fiers: his fastball tops out at 90. However, he has a full assortment of secondary pitches (strong change-up, good curve, slider, and some cutters) and the fastball plays up due to his ability to hit his spots and mix his secondaries so well. His over-the-top delivery adds deception and he has a knack for making talented hitters swing through 88 MPH fastballs because their timing is off.
Here's a game back in 2012 when Fiers made the Cincinnati Reds look bad with his full arsenal, eight strikeouts primarily with the secondaries but with some pinpoint fastball location as well:
Yesterday it was mostly the fastball, making the Cubs look awful at 88-90, locking up some hitters looking and others swinging.
Although Fiers has the arsenal and radar gun readings of a finesse pitcher, he has the strikeout rate of a power pitcher. His professional K/IP ratio is at 10.00 in the minors and 9.2 in the majors. He doesn't walk people, and the simple fact is that he has always been very effective when healthy: he was outstanding in college (2.65 ERA, 145/19 K/BB in 109 innings for Nova Southeastern in 2009) and dominated all levels of the minor leagues.
And he's been very effective in the majors too: people forget that he pitched well for the Brewers in his 2012 rookie season (3.74 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 135/36 in 128 innings, 3.1 fWAR). He was injured last year and did not pitch well, but he's back to full health in 2014 and is back to full effectiveness.
He doesn't have a huge margin for error in terms of velocity, so if he's not right physically or if he loses the touch with his location, he can get beat up. But most of the time he doesn't lose that touch.
The bottom line in my opinion: although we can't expect him to pitch like an ace all the time, a healthy Fiers is a legitimately above-average pitcher who could help most teams. That's a great outcome for a guy who was a 22nd round draft pick with a $2,500 bonus.
Never waste a draft pick.
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