30 Players in 30 Days: Mike Fiers
Mike Fiers was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 22nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Fiers debuted with the Brewers in 2011, but only made two appearances. The 6’2″ right-handed pitcher spent parts of the next three seasons with the Brewers with his best season coming in 2014 when he posted a 2.13 ERA in 14 games with a 0.88 WHIP.
Fiers began 2015 with the Brewers looking to build on his 2014 campaign. With Milwaukee he posted fairly consistent numbers, but allowed 4+ earned runs in six of his 21 starts with the team. In 118 innings with the Brewers, Fiers maintained a 3.89 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9.23 K/9 and hitters held a .259 AVG/.326 OBP against him.
On July 30, the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers made a deal a day before the trade deadline. Houston packaged prospects Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader and Adrian Houser in exchange for Carlos Gomez, Fiers and cash considerations.
The prize of the trade was Gomez – a premier centerfielder with the ability to excel in every facet of the game and Fiers, an afterthought to most fans, projected as a back of the rotation starter or long reliever.
Fiers had a rough debut with the Astros. Lance McCullers did not make it out of the first inning on August 3rd against the Texas Rangers, surrendering six early runs. Josh Fields came on in relief and threw 1 2/3 innings before Fiers was brought on in an unusual spot. Down 6-3 in the third inning, he stepped on the mound for the first time as an Astro and struck out the first batter he faced, but allowed the next seven Rangers to reach base. After that five-run inning he was much better though, allowing only one more run over the next four innings of mop-up duty.
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His first start with the team came on Aug. 9 against the Oakland Athletics and he threw more like the guy Jeff Luhnow believed he acquired at the deadline: 6 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO. Fiers followed up with another solid performance on Aug. 16 by throwing 5 1/3 innings while allowing only two (unearned) runs as the Astros beat the Detroit Tigers.
The no no
Fiers then took the mound on Aug. 21 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and, in only his third start as a Houston Astro, pitched his way into the history books. He threw 134 pitches en route to the 11th no-hitter in franchise history and the first ever at Minute Maid Park.
Fiers walked a hitter in each of the first three innings. In the third inning, Joc Pederson led off the inning with a walk, but Fiers got Jimmy Rollins to hit a pop out to second base and Chase Utley replaced Pederson at first base after a fielder’s choice. Those were the last two Dodgers to reach base.
In the ninth inning, he had to go through the heart of the Dodgers lineup to close out the game. Rollins led off the inning with a shot that Jake Marisnick had to track down all the way on the warning track in front of the Astros bullpen. Utley followed with a fly ball to right field bringing up Justin Turner and, on a 2-2 count, Fiers struck him out swinging on an outside fastball.
Working his low-90’s fastball and hammer 12-6 curveball, Fiers sat down the final 21 batters he faced that night while striking out 10. He only got better as the night went on – striking out six of the final eight batters he faced.
How unusual was the no-hitter for Fiers? The right hander had never previously recorded an out in the ninth inning.
Fiers burns bright
Fiers month of August – the best of his season – came to a close against the Minnesota Twins as he earned his second consecutive win in a six inning, one-run effort. Through his first four starts with the Astros, he allowed only 2 earned runs over 27 innings while striking out 30.
In September, Fiers came back down to Earth in his five starts. He wasn’t bad, in fact he only allowed more than three earned runs once, but he gave up at least one home run in each of those games and the Astros lost four of his five starts.
In 10 starts with the 2015 Astros, Fiers held a 3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.52 K/9 and opposing hitters managed a .197 AVG/.266 OBP against him.
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What to expect in 2016
The Astros may bring in another arm in the offseason, but Fiers’ spot in the 2016 rotation seems to be a lock at this point. He gives up a few more home runs than you would like a pitcher to, but that comes with the territory for a guy like Fiers that uses his high fastball to set up his devastating curveball.
Fiers should be the fourth or fifth starter in the Astros 2016 rotation. A ~3.50 ERA from a back of rotation guy is more than enough production from that position. He should know not to get too comfortable, though, as the franchise has several young, strong arms fast approaching.