By Jason Shetler
Over the last five seasons, the Pirates have taken on their fair share of reclamation pitchers such as Charlie Morton, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon and Edinson Volquez. One of the more notable pitchers on the free agent market this offseason that most looked at the Pirates to turn to was Doug Fister.
Fister is coming off a so-so 2015 campaign, as he put up a 4.19 ERA along with a 4.55 Fielding Independent Pitching for the Washington Nationals in 25 games, 15 of which were starts. He rated out as a replacement level pitcher with a 0.2 WAR. While Fister has put up pretty good career numbers for the most part, the biggest concern has been the decline in his fastball velocity.
2012 (Tigers): 89.1
2013 (Tigers): 88.6
2014 (Nationals): 87.9
2015 (Nationals): 86.4
The velocity on Fister’s fastball has gone down almost three mph on average since 2012, which is pretty alarming considering it wasn’t high to begin with. The decrease in velocity also led to a very low 5.2% swing and miss rate in 2015. As mentioned, Fister had a 4.55 FIP last season. The Pirates brought in Ryan Vogelsong, who posted a 4.53 FIP a year, so even though Vogelsong is a mediocre starter, Fister wouldn’t have been that much of an upgrade. On Thursday, the Houston Astros agreed to terms with Fister on a one-year deal worth $7 million, which could max out the contract to $12 million with incentives. While I’m not suggesting that the Astros overpaid for Fister, it would have been difficult for the Pirates or any other team for that matter to match the deal, especially for a pitcher who profiles more as a back of the rotation type.