Mike Fiers' Freaky Fastball
Milwaukee Brewers rookie right-hander Mike Fiers hardly instills fear in the hearts of hitters with his velocity. Fiers' fastball averages just 88 MPH, which is a little more than 3 MPH slower than the average for a righty starting pitcher. The only starters who sting catchers' mitts less (minimum 500 fastballs thrown) are Barry Zito, Chris Young, Mark Buehrle, Tommy Milone, Paul Maholm, Jason Vargas, Colby Lewis and Jered Weaver.
Yet Fiers, like Weaver, hasn't let modest velocity keep him from eviscerating hitters with his fastball. While Weaver's cross-fire motion and 6-foot-7 frame make batters squirm, the 6-3 Fiers comes nearly straight over the top with his delivery. That peculiar motion -- combined with excellent command and control of the pitch -- has allowed Fiers' fastball to play up in 2012.
Fiers pounds to zone with his not-so-fast fastball, throwing the pitch over the plate about 58% of the time (the average for starters is 52%). But Fiers doesn't just put the ball in the zone and hope for the best -- he avoids the fat part of the plate.
He varies his fastball location versus lefties, mixing pitches in on the hands and on the outside corner with high offerings:
Fiers' fastball location versus lefties
He follows a similar pattern (in that there's practically no pattern) against right-handers, spreading his fastballs around the zone without leaving many over the heart of the plate:
Fiers' fastball location versus righties
Fiers' exquisite fastball command was on display during his eight-inning, one run masterpiece against the Reds last night: he left just 27% of his fastballs over the vertical middle of the strike zone. Overall this year, he has thrown 31% of his fastballs belt-high (35% average for starters). Those belt-high fastballs tend to get pounded (MLB hitters are slugging .495 against them, compared to .443 on fastballs overall), so avoiding that part of the plate pays off. It sure has for Fiers, who just edges out Weaver for the lowest opponent slugging percentage on fastballs among starters this year:
Lowest opponent fastball slugging percentage among SP (Min. 500 fastballs thrown)