What a day!
Brewers On Deck happened today at the MidFronDelta Center in downtown Milwaukee. We were up early and over there pretty quickly in order to take in the sights and sounds of the shifting out of neutral by a good chunk of Brewers fandom — nearly 12,000 fans came out a number hampered by the threat of freezing rain.
I’ll write up my On Deck review tomorrow (complete with pictures) but tonight I sit down to profile an important piece to the 2013 plans for the Milwaukee Brewers…
Just in case you only very recently started following the team, allow me to get the basics out of the way. Michael Bruce Fiers is a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher from Florida. He was drafted by the Brewers in the 22nd round of the 2009 First-Year Player draft out of Nova Southeastern University. He stands 6’3″ and is listed at 195 pounds.
He made his Major League debut in a relief role on September 14, 2011. He pitched in two games with Milwaukee that year, throwing 2.0 scoreless innings.
Fiers began 2011 at a bit of a crossroads. He was assigned to the Double-A Huntsville Stars and pitched out of the bullpen initially. After not starting a single game in 2009, Fiers started 19 of 27 games in 2010 and only 18 of 34 games in 2011. So doing a bit of both was certainly the norm for Fiers in his career to that point.
With the Stars in 2011, Fiers made his first 14 appearances of the 2012 regular season out of the bullpen. He then was promoted to the Class Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds where he made a pair of relief appearances before being sent back down to Huntsville to work as a starting pitcher. His final relief appearance was on May 24th and his first start was May 27th.
Fiers would make 18 minor league starts over all (including 10 with Nashville). His ERA out of the bullpen as a relief pitcher was 4.34 before the switch to starting. By the time he was promoted to Milwaukee his ERA was whittled all the way down to 1.86. He only allowed 17 earned runs in those 18 starts.
In 2012 as a result, Fiers pitched exclusively in the rotation. He was assigned to Triple-A Nashville out of Spring Training and made 10 starts for the Sounds before injuries would necessitate a promotion to The Show in late May. Marco Estrada — who had joined the Brewers’ rotation when Chris Narveson tore his shoulder — strained his quadriceps muscle while running out a base hit in a game. Now down two starting pitchers, Doug Melvin dipped into the minor leagues and tapped Fiers.
All Fiers did from May 29th thru August 7th was make 12 starts (and one emergency relief appearance), post an ERA of 1.80, strike out 80 opposing hitters in 79 IP.
There was talk of Fiers as a darkhorse candidate for National League Rookie of the Year consideration, but there was also guarded optimism of people wanting to see more before they would anoint Fiers as a savior.
As has been the case with many starting pitchers, Coors Field offered Fiers first blow up start. He allowed eight earned runs in 2.0 innings and his ERA ballooned up nearly a full run. Quite a feat by that point in the year.
Fiers would post two more Quality Starts after that and another of 5.0 innings of 1-run ball, but he struggled late in the year to be certain. Speculation came from all sides but most of it boiled down to whether Fiers had simply worn down from the increase in innings.
Still, after all the issues following August 7th, Fiers still posted admirable full season numbers including a 3.74 ERA, 135 K and just 36 walks in 127.2 IP.
Entering 2013, Fiers stands to have an impact role with the Brewers from day one (well, day three or four really). He looks ready to contribute for a full season out the starting rotation, a job the Brewers will need him to perform well at in order to contend.
The taxation of bullpen certainly didn’t help its collective woes and in order to avoid a similar fate, the starting pitching will simply have to go deeper into games more often this season. For his part, Fiers had seven starts of at least 7.o IP and another seven of at least 6.0 IP.
Fiers’ deceptive delivery helps him maintain success but he simply must have his control and command on a given day in order to avoid meltdowns. He had it much more often than not in 2012. The Brewers must hope he produces to the high level again in this new year.
I think he’s up to the challenge, personally. Spring Training is where he’ll get back to that command. He’ll do it there with the #64 emblazoned on his jersey and in 64 more days (from Sunday, January 27th) he’ll ride into Opening Day at Miller Park with the same #64.
You can follow Mike Fiers on Twitter: @Fiers64