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Roster preview: Doug Fister

Jan 30, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 30

How acquired: Traded from Tigers for INF Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol and LHP Robbie Ray, Dec. 2013

2014 salary: TBD via arbitration (Fister is seeking $8.5 million, Nats are offering $5.75 million)

2013 Stats: 32 GS, 208.2 IP, 229 H, 91 R, 85 ER, 14 HR, 44 BB, 159 K, 1.308 WHIP, 14-9, 3.69 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 4.6 WAR

2014 storyline: An often underrated rotation member in Seattle and Detroit the last four seasons, Fister now joins the Nationals after general manager Mike Rizzo sent three young players to the Tigers in exchange for the right-hander. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann ahead of him in the rotation, Fister won’t be asked to carry this pitching staff but rather to bolster the back end. He’s been both consistent and effective, posting a combined 3.30 ERA since 2011 while averaging 30 starts per season.

The 6-foot-8 hurler relies on a heavy sinker and the downward plane generated by his height to keep pitches down in the zone and force batters to pound the ball into the ground. That’ll be a nice change of pace from the rest of the Nationals rotation, which includes more classic power pitchers.

Best-case scenario: Given the opportunity to face NL lineups (sans DH) and to pitch in front of a Nationals infield that is defensively superior to the Tigers’ quartet of the last two years, Fister becomes even more effective in his first season in D.C. He churns out 210 innings, strikes out 175 batters and goes 17-8 with a 3.25 ERA, solidifying himself as far and away baseball’s best No. 4 starter.

Worst-case scenario: The BABIP gods sometimes don’t smile on groundball pitchers, and one of these days, Fister might fall victim to some bad luck. Combine that with a lack of comfort in his new league and with a new club, and you get a disappointing debut season: 10-14 with a 4.00 ERA.

Most-likely scenario: Fister has been pretty consistent the last few years, so there’s not a whole lot of reason to think he’s going to vary dramatically from his recent performances. The Nats have every reason to expect 200 innings, 150 strikeouts, a lot of groundballs, a 3.50 ERA and a 14-10 record.

  1. unkyd59 - Jan 30, 2014 at 6:19 AM

    I keep tryna keep my head down, and not get caught up in unbridled optimism, like last year…. But these roster previews are awfully encouraging, I must say… :)

  2. Joe Seamhead - Jan 30, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    I definitely get the impression that Fister has a very real, old school mentality. He doesn’t like people stealing on him. He also seems to have pretty good control looking at his 44 walks in 208 innings, yet he was in the top 10 for HBP. Now, I’m a little slow sometimes, but I can read between those lines.

    At 9:00 a.m. this morning it will be 2 weeks until catchers and pitchers report!

    GO NATS!!!

  3. masterfishkeeper - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Maybe I’m just too optimistic, as I often am in the offseason, but I could see Fister having an ERA around 3 and winning 20 games. His ERA will drop coming from the AL to the NL and the Nats 2014 defense should catch more balls than the 2013 Tigers. Of course, that requires improvement by Zimmerman and Rendon ( or other changes), but I think that’s reasonable to expect.

    • alexva6 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      it also requires him to continue to pitch at the same level that he has in the past. his stats indicate a slight decline over the last three years.

      I’ll take “most likely scenario” and be happy with it.

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        I’m not too worried about the “decline” over the past few years.

        In his worst case scenario, Mark said Fister as a ground ball pitcher is subject to bad luck on balls in play, but in fact Fister had the highest BABIP of his career last year (.332, vs .298 career), and if anything is due for some regression. .

  4. natsjackinfl - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    Man, I loved getting this guy for the rotation. But I liked getting Haren last year and Edwin Jackson the year before that.

    Think I’ll temper my enthusiasm just a tad this year and wait for the results to come in.

    But I still love getting this guy for the rotation.

    • UnkleWheez - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      I liked Haren, but did not like Edwin. Edwin is always inconsistent. I really like Fister. I could be wrong but I think he will do good in DC.

  5. sjm308 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. At the end of the regular season last year I swore never to get so hyped about my team because even though we had a winning season and were in the race for the wild-card almost to the end, it just wasn’t what I had hoped or envisioned. And because of my high expectations, the season was not a happy time for this old fan. In reality, it was still baseball and was still fun. So all fall and winter I kept saying to myself, lets just lay low, lets not get all excited, and lets certainly not think about what could be. Just enjoy your team and the game.

    Nope, doesn’t work.

    While I am not confident with LaRoche and maybe just a tad worried about back up catcher (seriously, back-up catcher?) This Team Is Loaded!!! As I read Mark, I don’t expect his Best Case Scenario to explode for each of our players, but if we stay healthy, I honestly think we have the best team in the AL East as a minimum. To me, both Strasburg and Fister will come very close to Mark’s Best Case & I think Gio & JZ will be solid and consistent.
    So I am stuck, once again, with thinking this is our year! I know, I know, its a long season and lots of things will happen we are not expecting. I just hope most of them will be positive rather than negative.

    If Fister has the same results that Gio did when he switched leagues he could be scary good. I don’t have stats on that type of switch but I have to think it affects almost every pitcher in a positive fashion. How could it not? You are facing hitters that have not faced you on a regular basis, you are not facing a dh, and you now can actually pitch around the 8th batter if necessary to get to the pitcher.

    One last non-baseball thought. I played the Beatles “Birthday” to my son this morning for the 34th time!
    Happy Birthday Kevin

    Go Nats!!

    • Doc - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      Happy Birthday, Kevin.

      Good news ahead on the birthday front. When you get to 39 you can stay there.

      Like Jack Benny, it’s my favorite age, and I think that I’ll stay there in my age-delusion permanently!

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    Maybe my enthusiasm should be tempered, too, but this could be a ’71 Orioles-quality pitching staff (Cuellar, Palmer, McNally,, Dobson). Too bad convention dictates a fifth starter.

    • alexva6 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      too bad maybe but those four averaged 270 innings pitched!

      never gonna happen again

  7. Joe Seamhead - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Happy Birthday, sjm308 son!
    I’m pretty sure that the Yankees or the Red Sox are the best team in the AL East, Coach, ut we knew what you meant.

    • sjm308 - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      Getting old is a terrible terrible thing! Thanks Joe!

      • natsjackinfl - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:29 AM

        I don’t know, sjm. When you consider the other option, getting old doesn’t seem so bad.

  8. micksback1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I feel fairly certain that Fister is an upgrade from both Ejac and Haren, 12 wins, ERA about 3.00 and few gopher balls is really all Nats need from him

  9. micksback1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    Agree with Coach’s post, the one thing we do not know is the injuries that will crop up. This may be the only thing that would prevent Nats from 90 plus wins.

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    I hope he is not hiding an injury, that’s all. The return Tigers got still worries me a bit. Why did they sell him for so cheap?

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    I suppose you all have read this already.

    • Nats128 - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      Interesting that the writer was saying the Nats should get Lohse last year. Why wasn’t he saying that last off-season.

      Another with that great hindsight. Now he thinks the Nats should add AJ Burnett? I think the Nats still need to bring in another bench bat and catcher and truly make Spring Training a competition and we all know that won’t happen.

      I hope Scott Hairston can turn it around in 2014 because he’s taking a valuable bench spot. LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman are probably the 2 under the microscope the most since they are starters.

    • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      The problem with this article is that it used Steamer, which is an awful projection system. It has Desi getting worse by almost 2 WAR, it has Harper getting worse instead of better when all his peripherals suggest improvement, it has Rendon getting worse, it has Span having the worst year of his career for some reason and then there’s an issue with the DH that they’re trying to fix because AL teams are automatically given a huge advantage.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:06 AM

        it is using the same projections for Braves I believe. I wouldn’t call it awful, but different.

      • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        It is using the same projection for the Braves. And theirs are probably flawed as well. It really is an awful projection system. Our ZiPS projections come out today. Those are much better.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:20 AM

        we can’t be choosy like that. “it is awful, let’s ignore that. these are more in line with my expectations, I believe this.” if you can find anything technically wrong with steamer, I can understand but honestly I have not paid that much attention to either to know if there is anything wrong.

      • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        Steamer is well-known for being awful and inaccurate, it’s not just me saying that. There are a few reasons why. 1. Steamer does not account for park factors or use any minor league statistics, 2. it’s extremely reliant on the previous season rather than the full body of work 3. it doesn’t take into account age or aging curves and 4. it ignores many underlying peripheral stats.

        ZiPS uses three years of data, four if available, and for young players also analyzes their minor league statistics. It factors in peripherals such as GB rate, FB rate, HR/FB, BABIP, the aforementioned minor league stats, aging curves and park factors. ZiPS isn’t perfect either, no projection system is, but it routinely comes out as the most accurate system. Steamer does not.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        Now you have shut me up. I still however do not completely disagree with what the author was trying to get at.

    • sjm308 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      Thanks for that. I am huge into reading comments as well and it’s a great site. This actually helped me temper my enthusiasm.

    • tcostant - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Thanks, this article was eye opening. The sky isn’t falling, but having a good team on paper means nothing.

  12. jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Faraz,

    I just read it for the 1st time. It’s good to have some sobering thoughts.

    • Hiram Hover - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      +1.

      • micksback1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        The article is absurd. no logic to it at all. if Span and Bryce and Desi have off years I would be stunned. For example, It does not take into consideration how determined Bryce is with his rehab and training. simply a junk analysis and blog

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Mick

        To each his own – in my book, fangraphs has some great analysis. David and some others below raise some valid doubts about their reliance on Steamer projections in that article, but calling it junk, absurd and illogical is … well, just name calling.

        You’re right that grit and moxie don’t figure a lot in their projections (which is fine by me, but again, to each his own). Of course if you’re going to nitpick their projections for one team, you have to do it for all the others too.

        What I was affirming, anyway, was jd’s general point – that it’s not good for the team or the fans to go into this season with “irrational exuberance,” and something that tones it down can be good.

      • sjm308 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        Hiram, your last sentence to Mick says a great deal and I agree. I really do want to tone down my hopes after last year but I do think we will be right there.

        Mick – I thought the article was well presented and therefor hardly absurd. The guy, after all his criticism did pick the Nationals to win the NL East. I am not familiar with Zips or Steamer but I thought it was interesting that they use analysis & numbers to come up with expectations for the coming year.

  13. jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I think the concerns in the article are a little overly pessimistic but not crazy. They project a fairly steep decline for Desi (3.0 WAR compared to 5.0 the last 2 years), some declines for JZim and Gio, the exact same year from RZimm as 2013, a decline for Wertth. They also expect ALR to come in at 1.1 WAR which is not crazy considering he has been below 1 in 3 of the last 4 years they are very down on our 5th spot in the rotation ( they recommend we get Burnett or Santana or Jimenez) and they are concerned about the lack of depth behind Ramos.

    Note that the author still projects the Nats to win the division.

    • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      My issues aren’t really with Zim, Werth or LaRoche. It’s with Harper, Rendon and Span. Span has put up 3 WAR in 4 of his 6 seasons–and the only two he hasn’t he’s had injury-shortened years due to concussions. Steamer oddly has him at 1.9. It has Harper and Rendon both regressing when their peripherals suggest improvement. There are no red flags with either. And then projecting Desi for 2 WAR less than he’s put up the last two years is odd to say the least. Steamer is notoriously bad though, so it’s not a huge surprise.

    • Nats128 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      JD, I saw Gio at NatsFest and he has clearly been doing leg presses and squats. He looked very JZ in that area and it was my GIRLFRIEND who pointed it out ;) Hah

      Regression is easy to throw out there as many do to say they were right and players usually progress or regress as few stay the same which doesn’t make the writer a genius other than to pick the Nats to win the East.

      • Nats128 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        I agree with your past 2 comments David on the projections. That magnifying glass is on RZ and ALR. Those guys defensively on advanced matrics were awful and ALR had no stick.

        I don’t know what Williams does if ALR has a slow start. Not trying to be a pessimist however I think thats the big storyline.

      • Jw - Jan 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        What does Williams do if ALR has a slow start? He puts him in a locker.

    • micksback1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      HH, I agree, I was not attacking you and I apologize if it came across that way. I just have problems with projections that in my view lack all considerations and leave out important variables. you are right, to each his own

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        No worries.

        If you do want to see some better projections, I’d say check back later today when fangraphs posts their ZIPS projections. David P makes some good points (above? below?) about why they’re generally regarded as better.

  14. scnatsfan - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Projections make for interesting reading but that’s about it. Last year showed us that. I’ll take our team against any right now.

  15. jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Nats128,

    ALR is sunk cost at this point and he’s in his last year of his contract so the team doesn’t have to live with an awful year from him. There are several in house options (RZim to 1st, Werth to 1st, Moore at 1st etc) and there is always the possibility of a trade mid season. I don’t think Williams will show the same blind loyalty to ALR a Davey did.

    • Nats128 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Rizzo is still in charge. Hope ALR plays great and it’s a non issue but I have to say I am real nervous.

  16. jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    David et al,

    Like Faraz I don’t really know Steamer all that well so I won’t comment on the technical merits of that system. My only point was that as fans we always anticipate the best from our players so if someone had a great year we think he’l be at least as good as last year and if someone had an off year we look for historical evidence to support a bounce back projection, that’s why anytime someone puts up one great season everyone wants to sign him to an extension (Young, Belliard, Dunn, ALR).

    It doesn’t work that way in real life. Some players will do as expected, some will do worse than expected and some will do better. The concerns about the 5th rotation spot are reasonable as are the concerns for the lack of depth at catcher, the ages and injury concerns of Werth and ALR etc.

    I am overall very optimistic (not putting up a target win total, been there done that), I think Rizzo has put together a very good team, which in my opinion is the best in the division. Let the games begin.

    • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Those are all valid points. And I don’t have a problem with projections in general. Zips, which for us come out later today, are quite good. My issue is with Steamer particularly and it has nothing to do with what I believe or a “grit” factor, it has to do with Steamer being a flawed system with flawed methodology–at least in comparison to some of it’s counterparts. I explained to Faraz above some of the reasons why Steamer just really isn’t that good.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        where are zIPs projections for Nationals? I don’t see them at FG.

      • David Proctor - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Not up yet, but they will be later on today, they said.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        oh ok, thanks.

  17. sjm308 - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Like I said early this morning, LaRoche is my big fear. The only slim bit of ledge I am holding on to is that he is in his final year of a contract and if he wants one more big payday, he will rebound. I am not saying he will rebound to numbers of years past but I just think he has to play better. If not, I hope Williams moves quickly to solve the issue. Let me be very clear that even if LaRoche has an amazing season, I am hoping it is his last with this club.

    • jd - Jan 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      sjm,

      IMO, there is no chance in hell Rizzo signs ALR for one more extension. You never know, Matt Skole may take a leap forward this year and be in the conversation for next year and the consensus around baseball is that Zim won’t be at 3rd very much longer. I hope he proves them wrong.

      • alexva6 - Jan 30, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        on LaRoche – there is a 15M mutual option w/2M buyout in place for 2015.

        doubt it will be exercised but if he has a big year and they go all the way then that would change a lot of people’s opinions

  18. JamesFan - Jan 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    I think the season will turn on the following:

    -New manager’s ability to motivate and organize the team.

    -Harper and Stras. If these two step up, the season will be great. If they stay on the level of last year, it could be another disappointment.

    -Injuries: Werth, Zim, Harp, Ramos and Rendon all have histories. If a couple of them go down or a couple of pitchers, the season could flounder.

    -Bench play.

  19. Chas - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    I would just like to put in a word on behalf of irrational exuberance among the fans.

    What have we got to lose?

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