How to Fix Mike Fiers’ Pitching.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the efforts of Mike Fiers. He’s pitched well for the Houston Astros and shown great development during his time here. However, with an adjustment, Fiers can make the most of his abilities and become a more prolific starting pitcher.
What We Know
Fiers is a right-handed pitcher, throwing a four-seam fastball (ranging 88-91 mph), a slider, curveball, and change-up. His pitches appear to be faster than the are with his delivery. Fiers is capable of pitching for a stretch of games, but a small adjustment may help become more consistent. Can you guess what it is? If not, let me explain:
What We See
As you see in the photo below, Fiers elevates his front shoulder, which elevates the baseball at the release point. Centrifugal force takes effect and forces the ball to go where the body moves. Therefore, a high lead shoulder results in a higher thrown fastball.
For example, his performance against the Cubs on September 11th, allowing seven runs on seven hits. This outing shows that he is susceptible to the better hitters. While this is just one example, in an overall picture, this adjustment poses a long-term change to produce more quality starts.
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What Should Change?
It would be great to see Fiers work this higher shoulder out of his mechanics, so he can start to throw the fastball at a descending angle, creating more ground ball opportunities and working the bottom half of the strike zone. This will allow him to use the upper half of the zone to his advantage. His off-speed pitches will also benefit, as they will have the same visual appeal as a descending fastball.
This added deception, as I would call it, will open different ways to pitcher to hitters and generate a lot of quality starts. The best way to keep the shoulder down would be to drive your lead arm down and towards the target and work to keep your shoulders level through delivery.
For example, Collin McHugh is a right-handed pitcher, who uses a lot of off-speed pitches to generate outs. McHugh’s fastball tops at 89-92 mph, so deception is critical to his approach on the mound.
Even though both pitchers are different, the concept of creating deception to make your fastball more effective is critical to have success. All in all, I believe Fiers would benefit from flattening his shoulder plane through the wind-up and delivery.
Editor’s note: After talking with Program 15’s Jeremy Booth (former MLB scout), he believes that it is too late in his career to change Fiers’ delivery. Booth feels like Fiers needs to improve his command and the life on his fastball. Either way, he will have to pitch his way into the rotation this spring.
***Stats from Fangraphs***