Out Of Nowhere: Was The Success Of Mike Fiers Real Or Lucky?

Going into this last season I think the Milwaukee Brewers seemed to be unsure what to do with Mike Fiers. The hard throwing 26 year old had been bounced around in the minor leagues as a starter and reliever with no real permanent job.

Fiers was coming off an 8 – 0 season for the Brewers Triple-A team as a starter and so the Brewers made the decision to work him as a starting pitcher. After spending the first two months of the season Fiers got the call up to join the Brewers rotation. It turned out to be the right move as Fiers came up and dominated.

In Fiers’ first 12 starts of the season, 10 of them were quality starts, including a nine start stretch in which he allowed two runs or fewer. Fiers also struck out seven batters or more in half of those first 12 starts, showing off the swing and miss stuff he was touted to have.

In total Fiers started 22 games last season and these were the final numbers he posted:

127.2 Innings Pitched
3.74 ERA
1.26 WHIP
9 Wins
135 K’s
.319 BABIP Against
73% Left on Base

Those are some really impressive numbers for a guy in his first full big league season. But it was really a tale of two seasons when you look at Fiers split stats. Through his first 12 starts of the season which would have been through August 7th, Fiers had an ERA of 1.80. In his last ten starts of the season Fiers had an ERA of 6.98 and had just two quality starts.

So which Fiers was the real Fiers? And which of these guys should you be expecting as you prepare early preparation for next season? I think it’s somewhere in between the two. Fiers threw 182 innings between Triple-A and the major leagues last year, almost 50 innings more than he had thrown in one season. I would lean more towards believing that Fiers wore down than suddenly started being a horrible pitcher.

Looking at his pitching lines for the last few months, he did start walking a few more batters, but not to a very significant point. And aside from giving up four HR’s in his last start, he was keeping the ball in the park pretty well, as he did all year. More than anything else he just became way more hittable as his pitches didn’t seem to have as much on them.

So if you believe Fiers isn’t as bad as he looked at the end of the season, which I do. And you believe his final numbers are probably much more realistic than either of his splits, which I do. Than the question becomes how repeatable are his final numbers?

The strikeouts were his biggest source of fantasy value. Fiers posted a very strong 9.52 K/9 rate last season, and reached double digits in K’s multiple times. Fiers big K numbers came some out of nowhere, but looking at his minor league history it shouldn’t have been a surprise. In his three minor league seasons Fiers never struck out less than 9 per 9 innings.  There’s no reason to believe that Fiers can’t keep up his strikeout numbers, especially since he’s proven he can do it against big league batters as well.

The other peripherals are also encouraging. Fiers .319 BABIP against was not only higher than he has ever seen in the minor leagues, it was also higher than the league average. The strikeout ability that Fiers possesses was able to counter the high BABIP, but with a bit more luck and the K’s continuing his WHIP could get even better as well as his ERA.

Futher, the LOB% wasn’t over the top high by any means. The LOB is a little higher than the league average, but it isn’t more than what can be explained by the fact that Fiers is a high strikeout pitcher, which he is.  I don’t see a reason why Fiers couldn’t maintain this LOB% or close to it.

So ultimately, I think what you saw from Fiers as far as total numbers, is similar to what you can expect. It was a tale of two halves, but the medium is close to what he seems to really be as a pitcher. I can see Fiers with an ERA right around 3.50 – 3.75 next season with a ton of K’s. Seems like a guy to keep in mind whenever you start thinking about next season.

2 comments

  1. jmax says:

    Probably nice sleeper value heading into 2013. My points league puts emphasis on K’s so I’m already targeting him

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