While plenty of digital ink has been spilled examining what's wrong with Stephen Strasburg, Nationals' rotation mate Doug Fister has struggled as well, though a little more quietly. Before Washington's 31-year-old sinker-balling right-hander landed on the DL with forearm tightness in mid-May, the free agent-to-be put up a 4.31 ERA in fifteen starts and 39 ⅔ innings over which opposing hitters had a .291/.331/.456 line.
In four starts since he's returned to the Nats' rotation, Fister has put up a 3.70 ERA and a .289/.324/.433 line against in 24 ⅓ IP.
Fister's ground ball percentage is down for the third straight season, from 54.3% in 2013 in his final season in Detroit before he was traded to Washington to 48.9% in his first season in D.C. in 2014 to 40.7% so far this season. His fly ball percentage is up slightly from last season (34.2% to 34.8%), but up significantly from 24.4% in 2013. His home runs per nine innings are up to from a career 0.77 HR/9 to 1.13 so far this season, and his HR/FB ratio (Home Run to Fly Ball ratio) is up from 8.9% in 2013 and 10.1% last year to 10.4%.
Fister has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone this season, which he said was more of an issue than his two-seamer's velocity being down from 88.3 mph average in his career to 85.8 mph.
According to BrooksBaseball.net, Fister's two-seamer sat at 85.5 mph and hit 87.8 mph last time out in a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in which he received no decision.
Fister gave up eight hits, a walk and two runs, one earned in six innings, with an RBI double by the opposing pitcher, Anthony DeSclafani and a line drive single by Reds' shortstop Eugenio Suarez driving in the two runs that came in while Fister was on the mound.
"He pitched pretty good," Nats skipper Matt Williams said (https://youtu.be/NijPwSBAIQs). Williams also told reporters he was happy with what he's seen from Fister since he returned from the DL.
"He's pitching good. He's giving our team a chance to stay in games and win games and he kept them off-balance for the most part tonight. I thought he pitched well, into the sixth, through the sixth."
Fister was not as pleased with the outing.
"For me, there's some inconsistency there on the mound," he said (https://youtu.be/ddrg-SsrpM0).
"Not making quality pitches at times that are needed especially. But just fighting with myself a lot, trying to get the ball down. Really trying to get in a rhythm and it's a battle for me, so I've got a lot of work to do for the next five days."
Asked what's different between his struggles before and after the DL stint, Fister said it was more physical then and more mechanical now.
"Trying to get in a good rhythm of being consistent with -- whether it's arm slot, whether it's body position -- there's a lot of times -- I don't try to focus on mechanics too much, but there are things that you do need to do to be in the right position to throw a baseball, so I've got to really lock down and focus on those things and make sure I execute."
Fister said he would watch video and see what was wrong, then get back in the bullpen and start working to fix it.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo talked on 106.7 the FAN (http://cbsloc.al/1JPTh4L) this week about Fister's being healthy and determined to sort his mechanics out.
"I think he feels fine," Rizzo said. "Health-wise he's good and he's in a good place.
"Doug is a very long-levered pitcher and his delivery is important and as you can tell by just being with Doug for any length of time, he's a perfectionist. He sets the bar extremely high for himself.
"The start he made the other night, [which he said] was unfulfilling for himself, was a pretty darn good start. He's getting better each and every outing. He's a big mechanical guy and like I said long-levered guy who needs to be on line and have his delivery and arm slot right where he wants it to be."
"I think that he's only going to get better as he gets more feel for his stuff and for the strike zone and I'm not concerned whatsoever with Doug."