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2014 Fantasy Baseball Profile: Doug Fister

Will Doug Fister offer a breakthrough performance now that he will be pitching in the National League?

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Fister had shown a growing ability to use his repertoire of pitches to induce grounders, an I love to see that. As a matter of fact, Fister has increased his ground ball rate in every season of his big league career which is impressive. The ending number, the one he posted in 2013, is also elite: 41.3, 47.1, 47.5, 51.0 and 54.3 (that 54.3 percent mark from 2013 was the fourth best mark in the land). The ability to induce worm burners helps to ease some of the concern about the lack of punchouts, at least in term of his real world production, and when you combine it with the lack of walks it paints Fister as a very stable option on the bump.

How is this possible? I don't know either.

Fister has been an American League arm. Obviously facing a DH every day does nothing to help a hurler. With Fister's move to the NL, he's now a member of the Nationals as he goes from one impressive team (the Tigers) to another. There's some obvious excitement with Fister for the 2014 season, an I see two main issues that will cause Fister's outlook to improve in the eyes of many. (1) He's now in the NL, a better league to pitch in. (2) Fister will be the 4th starter for the Nats and that will help him beat other hurlers that he faces who can't match up to his talent. My response to these two points follows. In 2013 the AL had a .725 OPS. The NL had an OPS of .703. That's a slight boost for Fister, and facing pitchers a couple of times a game versus a DH, that obviously helps. As for facing other low level arms from the other team, that's hooey. Injuries happen. Weather gets in the way. Teams' off days don't always line up. The fact is that after the first few weeks of the season rotations are all jumbled. Fister might face another teams #1 or #5 hurler, it all just depends.

The majority of folks will understand the above data points, note that Fister has talent, and he'll likely be drafted rounds earlier than he has been in the past. Could Fister still offer a profit in 2014? Sure he could. The guy knows how to pitch. At the same time, if people push Fister up thinking that a true breakout is on the horizon, his draft day cost will likely outpace his on field production. Where is that tipping point? Fister should be a 4th starter in mixed leagues. If he's your fifth you are in good shape. If he's your third he had better be every bit the arm you think he could be (he better be healthy and have no missteps in his performance), or you're likely to be left holding an empty bag of potato chips when you need your salt fix (for me that's usually late at night).

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Doug Fister is a very good big league hurler, let me start out by simply saying that with the new National's hurler. He's not an elite arm, he's not going to challenge for the Cy Young award, but he takes the ball every five games and gives his team a chance to win most of the time. Take that arm from the AL and move it to the NL and you've got yourself a pretty intriguing option in the fantasy game, that is if the ole hype train doesn't get so overloaded that there's no room to get a seat.

Let's start by being clear with the type of hurler Fister actually is. Doug Fister is a solid hurler who doesn't beat himself. Look at that walk rate for his career (it sparkles at 1.81 walks per nine innings). He's been above his career mark the last two seasons (2.06 and 1.90) but complaining about that level of work would be like getting upset that your date ended up being the Miss Universe runner up versus the winner of the contest. Both are fantastic results, are they not? Fister just doesn't walk people, and that has been a huge reason for his success in the WHIP category. For his career Fister owns a 1.21 WHIP and two of the last three seasons he's finished below that mark. Even in his worst ever season, last year by the way, the mark was 1.31. That's the league average. He's not going to hurt your WHIP mark, just ain't happening.

With the lack of walks Fister is the proud owner of a 3.46 K/BB ratio for his career. Even more impressive is the fact that Fister has posted a mark of at least 3.61 the past three seasons. Now if your mind works quickly with numbers you might have deduced that even with that impressive K/BB ratio, among pitchers who have thrown at least 800 inning since the start of the 2009 season he has the 10th best mark in baseball, Fister must not own a big strikeout arm. If you thought that you would be correct. Fister has one season out of five with a K/9 mark over seven (a career best 7.63 mark in 2012), an all told he owns a 6.28 K/9 mark. While this works in the real world since Fister doesn't beat himself, it does leave his fantasy value a bit lower than would be ideal. The best case scenario for Fister is likely about 160 strikeouts (he had a career-high last season at 159 which was 45th in baseball last year). His outlook in the K department is middling.


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