Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
EDIT: This is an updated version of my original projections for Mike Fiers, in an effort to streamline the style of the projections of all the players for 2015. Most information will be similar to what I had written previously, with the obvious addition of more exact numbers within the projections.
As most projections begin, we’ll start with Fiers’ career to this point. As a starter, Fiers has posted a 3.70 ERA over 202 innings (35 starts) over his career, with a very good 4.06 K/BB ratio. These numbers are roughly equivalent to one healthy year’s work, and his 3.36 FIP in that time would put him in grand company in terms of fWAR.
For reference, I’d like to send very special shout-outs to 2013 Ricky Nolasco and 2014 Lance Lynn, who make for lovely comparisons. In 2013, Nolasco earned a 3.34 FIP over 199 1/3 innings for a 3.1 fWAR. Lynn earned the same fWAR in 2014 with a 3.35 FIP over 203 2/3 innings.
Fiers’ career performance –as condensed into one season’s work– would place him in the top 25 FIP among starters in each of the last two years, and the top 15 in K/BB ratio. Both times he would have topped all of his Brewer compatriots.
Obviously there are inherent differences between spreading performances over time and one season of consistent work. Fiers has a deceptive delivery and some fringy major league pitches, meaning that he is more likely to be hit the more often players face him.
As always, our ERA projection is based on the averages of our writers:
GS 30 IP 173 ERA 3.77 FIP 3.73 xFIP 3.74 WHIP 1.168 H/9 8.0 HR/9 0.9 GB% 34.3% BB/9 2.5 K/9 9.0 K/BB 3.60
There is a potential for Fiers to succeed as he has so far in his career (3.54 ERA), but as a full-time starter, I believe he’ll be hit more than in 2012 and (especially) 2014. His numbers this past season were elite in a brief showing, and that small sample size is a huge part of his stunning success.
In 2014, Fiers held hitters to an otherworldly .450 OPS off of his 4-seam fastball, buoyed by an equally absurd .140 BABIP on those pitches. A 4-seam fastball is rarely a player’s most lights-out pitch, particularly one as straight as Fiers’, and is usually the pitch most often seen by the hitter.
This is even more true when the pitcher’s fastball averages 89 MPH, as Fiers’ does, but he has thus far made a career out of getting hitters to chase his high fastballs. I have mentioned that Fiers experienced an uptick in velocity, which bodes well for his future.
In 2014, Fiers’ average fastball sat at 89.5 MPH according to fangraphs.com, over 1 MPH higher than his career average to that point, an increase that is huge for a guy with borderline Major League velocity.
The respected projection system Steamer has Fiers posting a 3.49 ERA (3.72 FIP) over 30 starts (173 innings). This roughly lines up with our idea of Fiers’ numbers for 2015, while actually being more optimistic in ERA.
Fiers’ has twice shown he can succeed in shortened seasons, and 2015 will be his (second) chance to prove he can perform over an unabridged one.
Other pitcher projections: