Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
After the Brewers’ final game this season, Reviewing the Brew polled its editors and writers, both present and former, to select Brewers award winners for several categories. Our first category, as you may have guessed, is Comeback Player of the Year, awarded to starting pitcher Mike Fiers.
Available to players at any position, the Comeback Award is meant for any player who has bounced back from at least one season of injury or poor play. As this is the 2014 awards, the players should have succeeded this season, after either struggling greatly or missing significant time in 2013.
In a way, Fiers applied in both categories, particularly the latter. Fiers was very ineffective in The Bigs in 2013, and while he was much better in the minor leagues, he broke his throwing arm on June 16th while pitching for Nashville, ending his season.
Expectations had been high for Fiers who had appeared in 23 games (22 starts) in 2012, posting a very encouraging 3.74 ERA in 127 2/3 innings. He also struck out batters at a higher rate than then-Brewer Zack Greinke, while letting up the same number of hits per 9 (8.8) as Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award Winner.
Then in 2013, Fiers started just 3 games, allowing 6, 4, and 5 earned runs in just 10 2/3 innings. He bounced between AAA and the Majors over a two month span, and fared only slightly better as a reliever. Fiers’ injury of course meant that he had no time to overcome his 2013 demons, and as such, began the 2014 season in AAA.
This season, by June, Fiers had earned his MLB call-up and then some. In total, after rejoining Nashville from late June to early August, Fiers owned a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts, and an absurd 7.59 strikeout to walk ratio.
In the Majors, Fiers was in many ways even better, posting an outstanding 2.13 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts). Major League hitters could only muster a .181/.232/.299 slash line against him, and he had 8 quality starts in 10 attempts, while throwing 7 or more innings in half of his starts.
Fiers also earned a higher fWAR than Brewers win leader Wily Peralta, despite tossing just 71 2/3 innings to Peralta’s 198 2/3, and no Brewers pitcher came close to Fiers’ K/9 ratio (9.54). Also incredibly impressive is that despite his ability to strike out batters, he still had the 2nd lowest walk rate after control master Kyle Lohse.
It will be difficult for Fiers to repeat such an impressive performance, but confidence in the Milwaukee’s clubhouse must be high. An uptick in velocity also bodes well for Fiers’ future as a Brewer, and he will hopefully find his place in the Crew’s rotation for good in 2015.
The complete results of the Comeback Player of the Year Award can be seen here.