With the Jordan Zimmermann signing out of the way, the Detroit Tigers can now turn their attention to signing one more starting pitcher to fill out the rotation for 2016. The next starter to become a Tiger should be a familiar face, as Doug Fister is an excellent fit for Detroit. After two years away from the Motor City, the tall right-hander should be ready for a reunion with the team and stadium most-suited for his talents.
After spending the first three years with the Seattle Mariners, Fister joined the Tigers mid-way through the 2011 season. He was 3-12 for a pitiful Seattle team at the time of the trade, despite having a 3.33 ERA. Over the final few months of his first season in Detroit, Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 games. Before being traded to the Washington Nationals in December 2013, Fister piled up a 32-20 record with the Tigers to go along with a 3.29 ERA spanning 68 starts and 440.2 innings.
Fister’s time with the Nationals was marred by injury. Though he went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 2014 and garnered a few Cy Young votes, the 6’8″ 31-year-old made only 25 starts. The 2015 season was another injury-plagued campaign for Fister. He struggled to pitch through nagging injuries in April and May before eventually losing his spot in the starting rotation to Joe Ross. Pitching out of the bullpen down the stretch should help re-establish some value for Fister, as he recorded a 2.12 ERA in 10 appearances and 17.0 innings of relief. As a starter, Fister was 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 15 starts, by far the worst performance of his seven-year career.
Doug Fister is the type of pitcher who benefited greatly from pitching in the spacious Comerica Field, as well as Safeco Field while with the Mariners. His stuff is by no means dominant and his strikeouts are few and far between, but he commands the strike zone and changes speeds well. This ability, combined with his unique arm slot, allow Fister to generally tamp down hard contact. With the Tigers and Mariners, Fister never allowed more than a home run per nine innings, and has allowed only 0.5 HR/9 while pitching in Comerica during his career. Upon joining the Nationals, Fister allowed 1.0 and 1.2 HR/9 in his two seasons with the team.
Detroit is a perfect setting for Doug Fister to re-establish himself as one of the best mid-tier starting pitchers in the league. His FIP numbers while pitching for the Tigers backed up his low ERAs. The Tigers should be able to get Fister on a three-year deal at a price very similar to the $36 million the Toronto Blue Jays paid J.A. Happ. That investment should prove to be a safe one in the long run, as Doug Fister gets back to a park and environment that suits him as a pitcher.