July 13, 2012
Making the Most of Mike Fiers
You know what to expect when Mike Fiers is pitching. You expect a lot of puns about his name, which is pronounced “Fires.” First inning: “Mike Fiers on the mound and he is setting the mound on Fire recently.” Second inning: “He is heating up.” Third inning: “A perfect name for a day like this. Mike Fiers.” Actual puns from his actual last start. It was 101 degrees in Milwaukee.
You don’t really know what else to expect, because wait who? Mike Fiers, a guy taken in the 22nd round during his age-24 season. The day he made his pro debut, in short-season ball, he was the same age Clayton Kershaw is now. Three years later, Mike Fiers is in the majors, and in seven starts he has struck out 48 batters and walked nine, in 46 innings. He has a 2.31 ERA and some guy in your fantasy league keeps offering him to you for Adrian Gonzalez. And he is the latest fun story of a guy who did more than he was supposed to do.
The age at which he was drafted can be explained. While he was driving from his home in Florida back to school in Kentucky, he fell asleep and drove off the road. He flew out the back windshield, “suffering four fractures in his back and a dislocated left leg.” He sat out a year and wasn’t drafted until after his senior year, when he led the nation in strikeouts.
Even before the accident, though, he was no top prospect. He went to three different colleges and wasn’t drafted out of high school or his junior year of college. In two significant ways, though, he’s not the same pitcher he was in high school or college. He was drafted in the 22nd round because he was a right-handed pitcher who threw 87 or 88 mph. Those are two things that rarely change, and, with Fiers, they haven't changed. He is still right-handed. He still throws 87 or 88 mph. But there are other things a pitcher can change, and that's part of the Fiers story.
This is Fiers before he was drafted: