So, I was reliving some glory from 2015 over the last few days, watching snippets from games. And I watched some of the post-game interviews after Mike Fiers‘ no-hitter.
You remember that, right? Aug. 21, Fiers walks a lone batter in each of the first three innings, then just takes over, leaving the Dodgers scratching their heads and wondering what the heck happened.
After the game, one of the reporters at the press conference asked A.J. Hinch if having a guy like Fiers throw a no-no was “improbable.”
Hinch, who is quickly becoming my favorite Astros manager ever, shot down that theory immediately. Maybe that’s just a manager having his player’s back (are you listening, Bo Porter?), but I think it’s a little more.
In fact, after that no-hitter, Fiers had six more starts in the regular season for Houston. Four of those six were quality starts. The other two: he pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 runs, the other he went 5.2 IP giving up 4 runs (3 ER). So it’s not like he wasn’t giving the team a bit of a chance to win. His record in these six outings, 1-1 with four no-decisions.
Looking back, Fiers seemingly figured it out in 2014 with a 2.13 ERA in 71 innings, Fiers regressed some in 2015 with a combined (Houston and Milwaukee) ERA of 3.69. But, as we all know, ERA is not the most reliable stat.
But I think there are a couple of things that will work in Fiers’ favor in 2016. First, his FIP tends to be a bit higher than his ERA. That means good fielding benefits Fiers more than other pitchers. This was especially true once he got to Houston.
Well, the Astros have an excellent defense. Gold Glove at second base. Former Gold Glover in center field. Fantastic fielders at all three outfield positions really. Plus Correa and Valbuena in the infield.
Listening to the post-game interviews from several of his games, it seems Hinch and Brett Strom are trying to develop a plan for Fiers that plays to his strengths much like what they did for Collin McHugh. In an interview with MLB Network, he mentioned how Strom had a game plan for him that differed from what he did with the Brewers.
In the end, this is a guy with 404 IP in the majors who owns a 3.61 ERA. His lifetime FIP is 3.73 and he brings a WHIP of 1.21. All this from a guy who will be fourth or fifth in the Astros rotation.
It’s this quality of depth — a guy who is probably third-best or even competing for that No. 2 spot in the rotation on some teams — that makes a guy like Fiers so important to Houston.
A Tale of Two Bellies
Not bellies, really, but weight.
So there were a couple of stories at Astros.com about first basemen reporting to camp, and how much each weighed. Take what you want from these reports.
The first was a story about everyone’s favorite million-dollar minor leaguer, Smokey Jon Singleton. Despite the fact he claimed to have chilled all winter, apparently Singleton spent the winter puffing — I mean pumping — up in the weight room.
I wasn’t aware that a lack of muscle was his big issue, but maybe some added strength will help with his bat speed or something? I’m not a biomechanical specialist. But if bulking up was his answer, then adding 15 pounds of muscle was the right choice.
I guess …
The second story concerned everyone’s favorite minor league player of the year, A.J. Reed. The formerly flabby first baseman showed up to camp in the best shape of his life. Well, certainly the best shape of his professional life.
Apparently — according to the article — he spent the winter working out and taking ground balls. OK, so on the surface that doesn’t seem too dissimilar to what Singleton did. After all, if Big Jon just took some ground balls now and then — and I’m willing to give him the benefit of that doubt — then it sounds pretty identical to what Reed did.
But then why do these two stories sound so dissimilar? The Singleton story seems like an apology about the guy who ate a whole cake in one sitting. The Reed story reads like something from Shape magazine.
I’m looking forward to watching some spring games just to see the difference in their physiques.
I won’t even discuss how one is a whiff machine while the other has all the power but also seems to have great bat-to-ball skills. Something that, you know, is probably enhanced more by being in shape than being bulky.
Of course, round is a shape. But there’s a reason I’m not a major leaguer.
I look at Fiers and see an unsung hero who might really be a key piece as the season goes along. Any other unsung heroes you looking at? Marwin Gonzalez? Will Harris? Tony Sipp? Jake Marisnick?
As the players trickle into camp, we’ll get some of these stories from Chron (spit!), MLB.com and even (this is the crazy part) the national media. What stories are you on the lookout for?