The big news today is that the Angels signed Doug Fister, a formerly good starting pitcher. Fister has a career 3.60 ERA and 3.78 FIP, putting him as a solid starter, but he has significantly regressed since his peak.
Judging by the 1,266 innings on his arm, his velocity has definitely taken a tumble for the worst.
Velocity is not necessarily a death knell, but as we observed with Jered Weaver, the lack of it means less margin for error. In Fister’s case, that margin has become virtually nonexistent. Let’s put his velocity into context.
Doug Fister's average fastball velocity of 87.0 in 2016 was the second slowest average in MLB (Jered Weaver, 84.0) #Angels— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) May 18, 2017
Umm, ok. That’s not good. How about his strikeout-to-walk ratios? (higher is better)
That’s not good, either. As told by the following graphs, Fister is eliciting waaaaay less swings from batters.
All while allowing significantly more contact than usual.
He’s also striking out less hitters, getting less ground balls, and more fly balls. Translation? He’s giving up a lot more runs.
To be fair, Fister probably has something left in the tank. Last year, he was “only” 12% worse than the MLB average (for FIP-, 100 is average and lower is better). For a free agent starter signing in May, it could always be worse.
There is a glass-half full view if you look hard enough. Perhaps there’s a small chance that Fister used the time off to rest his arm and he regains some velocity. Perhaps Charles Nagy teaches him how to throw a new pitch. Perhaps Angel Stadium and an above-average defense can mask his flaws, with Martin Maldonado converting borderline pitches into outs. Perhaps, like another starter that throws in the high-80s, Fister alters his release point to create more deception for opposing batters. But most evidence points to the contrary.
The truth is that Doug Fister is not what he once was. He can provide the Angels with 5-6 innings per start every five days, but don’t expect those to be quality starts. Fister is an insurance arm in case Alex Meyer can’t figure it out or god forbid, if another starter goes down due to injury. Keep little to no expectations for Doug Fister, for he is what he is.