Tucked within numbers that offer insight into Mike Fiers pitching past is one revealing column from 2017. Walks. He put 62 batters on base, in 153.1 innings. “A lot last year,” said Fiers, a friendly right-handed pitcher and Florida native who grins easily, and who can laugh just as freely at a quip, which he and fellow Tigers starter Matthew Boyd were managing to do regularly last week during some Tigers caravan preliminaries at Comerica Park. Fiers said he would be “cleaning all of that up” in 2018, which the Tigers are presuming as well. They spent $6 million on a pitcher who became a free agent last autumn after the Astros decided he had no practical slot with them in the days ahead. It’s something they had also decided heading into the 2017 playoffs, which they turned into a World Series champagne party even as Fiers was dropped from the playoff roster. One reason all of that happened is because of the Tigers. They had traded Justin Verlander to Houston in August and thus turned Fiers into Mr. Dispensable. Verlander all but flung the Astros to their first-ever championship by way of a remarkable postseason that saw him pitch Verlander-vintage shutdown baseball. Fiers was still with the team, in uniform but not eligible to pitch, urging on his mates, doing what he could, emotionally, to help Houston beat the Red Sox, Yankees, and then the Dodgers. “It was tough, man, especially when I had pitched all year,” Fiers said. “But to make an addition like Verlander, you’ve got to do it. So, being a competitor, you still want to do something. Cheering in the dugout, picking guys up. I wasn’t there to pout.” Why wasn’t he pitching? The prosecution has its case. Twenty nine games, 28 of which were starts, produced a 5.22 ERA. Fiers had a WHIP of 1.43. Two sets of digits, equally damning. In those 150-plus innings he worked in 2017, Fiers was socked for 157 hits, including 32 home runs. His strikeouts were solid — 146 — but, again, those 62 walks, which were accompanied by a league-high 13 hit batters and 11 wild pitches. The Tigers decided for two reasons Fiers was worth a shot. He fit their 2018 budget, which remains on a strict diet. They also believed he might, at 32, summon skills more reminiscent of his 2015 season, when he pitched for the Brewers and Astros and rolled up a 3.69 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 180.1 innings. Anyone is forgiven for thinking there’s more hope than realism in the Tigers’ thoughts. Fiers’ repertoire is broad but nothing fancy. Fastball that runs 88 to 91, with a two-seamer that doesn’t draw as many ground balls as might be expected. He has a second-pitch curveball, a change-up, and a cutter/slider combo that amounts to a window-sticker accessory.
Mike Fiers looks forward to ‘clean’ start with Tigers
Detroit News | Jan 31