Doug Fister on Pitching

We don’t get a lot of time with the players this time of the year. So it was very nice of Doug Fister to spend some of that precious resource talking with me about his craft late last week. His thoughts could serve well as a backdrop for the six-foot-eight bulldog’s performance in Game Four today.

Eno Sarris: This is your best year as measured by ground balls. If you look over your career, it’s more ground balls every year. Are ground balls something you focus on?

Doug Fister: That’s my main focus, really. I try to attack the hitter and get as bad contact as I can in the first three pitches. If I can do that, I feel I can go longer in the game and have more effectiveness throughout the game. I’m trying to be as efficient as possible, I’m trying to get every ground ball. If I could, I’d get 27 ground balls straight. If I didn’t strike anybody out, that wouldn’t worry me.


Sarris: Does it ever worry you that a strikeout is always an out while a ground ball is *mostly* an out?

That’s where your team mentality comes in, you trust everyone behind you, and as long as you do your job and take the sting out of the ball, the defense will be right there for you.

2010 Seattle 4.11 0.302 9.1
2011 Seattle 3.33 0.284 12.1
2011 Detroit 1.79 0.245 -4.2
2012 Detroit 3.45 0.296 -15.6
2013 Detroit 3.67 0.332 -11.8

Sarris: I tried to look at your pitching mix this year to see if there was a difference, but the only thing I could see were a couple more two-seamers and curves.

Fister: Thrown a lot of two-seamers this year, and a lot more curveballs. Just really it’s a matter of fine-tuning and keeping the ball down.

Year 4-Seam 2-Seam Slider Curve Change
2011 34.3% 25.1% 15.3% 14.9% 10.3%
2012 20.7% 31.9% 14.0% 19.6% 13.7%
2013 20.3% 29.7% 14.4% 20.2% 15.2%

Sarris: What’s amazing is that you’ve kept your great control numbers even while throwing the curve more, since the curve isn’t a great pitch for strikes. How have you kept the walks down as you’ve thrown more curves?

A lot of it is just getting a feel for it. Early in this season, it was a little rougher in terms of knowing where it was going and keeping the ball down. I’m very picky about where I throw it, and if it’s not there, I’m not satisfied, even if I get an out behind me. I want to know that I’ve made my pitch and I’ve done the precursor work to getting in the game. It’s a matter of repetitive muscle memory.


You have elite-level control. Is it just about repeating your mechanics?

Fister: It’s about repeating my mechanics and really just focusing on what I do. Most times, I don’t look at video of other people…

Sarris: Do you look at video of yourself?

I do. There’s some times if I’m going well, I look at video of what I’m doing now and just kind of memorize that. If I’m not doing well, I go back to something I have done well, and kind of compare — not so much mechanically — but a mental feel of what I do and what I’m feeling when I’m going through the motion.

Sarris: So maybe you’ll see a PITCHf/x graph of your release point sometimes?

Release point, timing of how long it takes me to get there… there are so many different variables. For me, as long as I have a good feel for the ball at my fingertips at my fingertips, at the end of my delivery, I feel like everything else catches up or adjusts enough to catch up and make it work.

Best BB/9 Since 2010, Minimum 600 IP
Cliff Lee 1.23
Dan Haren 1.71
Roy Halladay 1.75
Doug Fister 1.78

Sarris: From what I’m hearing, you focus on yourself more than the hitter.

Fister: Absolutely. If I’m going to throw my sinker down and in to a right-hander, it doesn’t matter what right-hander it is, it’s still going to be a down and in sinker.

Sarris: That’s the one thing I’ve heard about scouting reports this year, is that they can take you so far but at some point you’re going to trust your best stuff against their best stuff.


Was there anything that you learned in Detroit specifically, was there anything that clicked for you here?

Fister: You know, I’ve really kind of stayed the same with my preparation and everything else. I think it’s just a matter of having more experience even if we’ve been working on things. I think experience does a lot for you. It’s the kind of stuff that I had in Seattle, but I’m a little older and wiser and a little more mature physically.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

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