Better fastball, better 'D' keys for Fister

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Doug Fister has had a terrific second half for the Tigers.

For the second straight season, you could make a case that Detroit Tigers starter Doug Fister is among baseball’s best pitchers in the second half of the season.

Fister solidified that reputation with his effort in Thursday’s win, one that included the AL record-setting nine straight strikeouts that David Schoenfield wrote about in the Sweet Spot blog earlier today.

Doug Fister - 2012 Season

Fister lowered his second-half ERA to 2.51, second-best in the AL to David Price’s 2.24. Had he won, he would have matched Jered Weaver for the AL lead in second-half wins with nine.

It's a near-match for last year's second half, in which Fister had a tremendous September and went 8-3 with a 2.47 ERA after the break.

It’s also a significant turnaround from Fister’s 2012 first half, in which he was 2-6 with a 4.75 ERA.

What’s improved?

Several factors have led to this improvement. Let’s hone in on two of them.

A more potent fastball

Fister’s fastball was a source of trouble for him in the first half of the season. Opponents hit .336 and slugged .544 against it in the first half of the season.

In the second half of the season, he’s increased the average velocity of it by about a mile per hour such that it’s regularly 89 to 90.

How Fister K'd 9 straight

The difference can be seen in how Fister has fared when he’s thrown it in two-strike counts.

In the first half, opponents reached base nearly 33 percent of the time when a turn ended with Fister’s fastball. His putaway rate with the pitch was about 15 percent, meaning he got one strikeout for about every 6.5 fastballs thrown.

In the second half, he’s notched a strikeout for every 4.5 fastballs thrown with two strikes.

Opponents have reached only 15 percent of the time when a two-strike turn ends with a heater.

Thursday, seven of those nine straight strikeouts came with his fastball.

The Tigers defense

Much has been written about the Tigers defensive struggles this season, but they’ve done much better by Fister in the second half than in the first half.

In the first half of the season, Fister’s ratio of outs to baserunners on ground balls was about 3-to-1.

In the second of the season, he’s gotten nearly six outs on ground balls for every baserunner he’s allowed.

Did you know? A September to Remember

Over the last two Septembers, Fister is 8-1 with a 1.44 ERA.

How many pitchers have had eight wins and a sub-1.50 ERA after September 1 in a two-year span?

Elias tells us that since 1969 there have been four others besides Fister.

They were Gaylord Perry (1970-71 San Francisco Giants), Bert Blyleven (1971-1972 Minnesota Twins), Dwight Gooden (1984-1985 and 1985-1986 Mets), and Johan Santana (2004-2005 Minnesota Twins).

Mark Simon, Scott Beaman and Andrew Davis contributed research to this story