by Ray Kuhn
Will the real Doug Fister please stand up? In reality the question might not be as daunting as it seems. Once you remove the recency bias of Fister’s struggles last season the question begins to change. Was 2015 a regression for Fister or was it an aberration that he will recover from?
Of course does it really matter? Even if Fister returns to his 2014 form, is he a worthwhile fantasy option? Let’s start by taking a look at the right-hander’s performance in what you could argue was his best season yet.
In 2014 he had a 2.41 ERA along with a 1.08 WHIP, but only logged 164 innings and struck out 98 batters. The benefit gained from his low ratios went right back out the door with the lack of strikeouts. After taking a deeper look his season wasn’t as good as it appeared with his 3.75 expected ERA (per Baseball HQ).
We can easily establish that Fister is not a strikeout pitcher. If you forecast the right-hander for 180 innings, anything more than 130 strikeouts would be gravy. Over the past five seasons he only has two years in which he eclipsed 200 innings (216 in 2011 and 209 in 2013), so he’s not an innings eater. At the same time 162 and 164 innings of dependable baseball (2012 and 2014, respectively) certainly hold value. That value is more to major league teams than fantasy teams however.
Last season he made it through103 innings, striking out just 63 batters while dealing with a forearm issue and decreased velocity (he ultimately ended up in the bullpen). Statistically it was his worst season as he battled his way to a 4.19 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.
To answer the original question posed, Fister’s 2015 season was a blip on the radar. In none of the previous four seasons did he have an ERA less than 3.67 or an xERA of 3.75. Aside from 2013s WHIP of 1.31, which is respectable on a whole if utilize him as a spot starter, he recorded WHI’s of 1.06, 1.19 and 1.08. That should not be ignored.
In all likelihood Fister will go undrafted in the majority of standard leagues. If you are looking to fill in the back end of your rotation he is a perfect option as your sixth, seventh or eighth starter. All signs point to him being healthy entering the season and getting 30 starts for a winning team (the Astros). While there is the possibility he ends up in the bullpen as a long man at some point, it is not likely.
If you draft him, or add him at some point as a streaming option (the more plausible possibility), just be aware of the lack of strikeouts. The ratios, innings, and wins should be there as he could have a role on your team with minimal risk. Just don’t overrate his contribution.
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