Houston Astros: Any Truth to Mike Fiers as the Long Reliever?
By Eric Huysman
Coming Out of the Houston Astros Bullpen, Long Reliever Mike Fiers?
Just when we thought it was safe to go out and buy a Houston Astros Mike Fiers Jersey, Evan Drellich has to come out and be a buzz kill. Drellich reported that there was a chance that Fiers could be the long reliever in the Astros bullpen. The person who will be the long reliever will not necessarily be because he may be best suited for the role. According to the article, a six-man rotation is not the answer for Astros manager A.J. Hinch. The five chosen will be the five who will make the rotation the strongest.
It was assumed by many, including myself, that the top three in the rotation would be Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers. The final two spots would be filled by Fiers and either Doug Fister or Scott Feldman, with Fister getting the edge as a recent signing by the Astros. Feldman and Fister could both be gone next year, so why take someone out of the rotation with team control until 2019 in Fiers?
At the 2016 Bloggers Roundtable, Reid Ryan told us that an average MLB team goes through at least 13 starters every year. It is very rare for a team to go all year with only five starting pitchers, so we shouldn’t be upset that Fiers could be ticketed to the long relief role right? Even if he doesn’t open the year in the rotation, he will eventually get some starts. Ryan also told us that he thought that the Astros struggled in the second half without Feldman in the rotation because he is an innings eating pitcher.
With Ryan pushing to get into the rotation and the Astros signed Fister to a one-year deal to pitch in the rotation, the math doesn’t add up that Fiers would make the rotation, plus he has had success in the bullpen in the past. Yes, I know that Fiers was hit around a little in his lone appearance out of the Astros bullpen in 2015, over his MLB career he has a 1-2 record/ 3.71 ERA/ 23 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.
During yesterday’s broadcast of the Astros game, the broadcasters mentioned that Fister feels like he gets better sink on his ball once he gets tired, so pitching out of the bullpen would not be a smart move for those short stints when needed. In his career, Fister has actually been a little effective in the bullpen with a 2-0 record/ 1.64 ERA/ 19 strikeouts in 22 innings. In the game yesterday, Fister was able to limit the damage to one run in three innings, showing that he is almost ready to extend himself. With Fister regaining his form so far this spring hitting 90 MPH, could a return to the 2014 form be in order?
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Feldman is not a sexy pick for the rotation, but when healthy, he can eat up some innings to limit how many times the Astros have to use the bullpen during his starts. Feldman is consistent, you know what you are going to get from him, a .500 record with a high three something ERA each year when healthy. According to Drellich, Feldman has said that his shoulder has felt the best that it has in a while so that he could be the fifth starter on a championship caliber team like the Astros.
If Fiers is the long guy, I could see him pitching potentially on the same schedule as McCullers, who already has been told that he will be on an innings limit once again in 2016. McCullers could pitch five innings and Fiers could come in and finish the last four innings, saving the Astros bullpen. This rotation is deep with some of the best talent still to come, but the Astros might have to be creative. Fiers could also get the occasional start in the place of McCullers, but that is yet to be seen.
Next: Houston Astros: We Finally Know Some Details on A.J. Hinch’s Contract
When I started writing this, I saw zero chance of Fiers not being in the rotation. But looking at the quotes and stats, I see there being a strong chance that it could happen. I hope not, because I drafted him for my fantasy team. There are few open positions on this team, but the ones that are will be exciting to follow this spring. Plus, he is No-hit Fiers, he has to be in the rotation right?
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**