Is Doug Fister the modern day Greg Maddux?

Major League Baseball

Is there a modern day Greg Maddux?

There aren't enough superlatives to describe the greatness of Greg Maddux. Whether you’re a traditionalist or sabermetrician; Greg Maddux was too good to be denied baseball’s greatest individual achievement. There is no doubt Greg Maddux will be voted into the Hall of Fame this week; the biggest question surrounding him is whether he’ll be the first unanimous inductee or not. Perhaps a more interesting question to ask is if we can find a current player who resembles a modern day Greg Maddux?

To find out, I went to FanGraphs' leaderboards and filtered starting pitchers dating back to 1920 looking for a similar skill set to "The Professor's" career numbers. The filters were as follows: BB% less than or equal to 5% and K% greater than or equal to 16%, and a GB% greater than or equal to 49%. This narrowed down a sample size of 1,650 starters down to two, Greg Maddux and Doug Fister. Maddux has the edge in starts & innings, but everywhere else the similarities are striking.

Name GS IP BABIP LOB% BB% K% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP
Greg Maddux 740 5008.1 0.281 72.30% 4.90% 16.50% 51.50% 12.00% 3.16 3.26 3.72
Doug Fister 127 818.2 0.298 72.10% 4.90% 16.80% 49.30% 8.20% 3.53 3.44 3.68

By the numbers they almost look like doppelgangers.

How did Fister transform from a back of the rotation pitcher into a Professor emulator? Fister simply harnessed and locates with an under-powered repertoire, just like Maddux. There are three distinct periods in Fister's career, pre-2011, 2011, and post-2011, which lead to the we pitcher see today.

Pre-2011

When Fister arrived on the scene in 2009, he was primarily a three pitch pitcher with a flat and underwhelming four seam fastball, loopy curveball, and solid changeup. He had the makeup of a solid but unspectacular innings eater. The main thing holding him back was his inability to keep balls out of the middle of the zone; his Pitch f/x and zone profiles are seen below.

Year IP FA% (pfx) wFA/C (pfx) FT% (pfx) wFT/C (pfx) SL% (pfx) wSL/C (pfx) CU% (pfx) wCU/C (pfx) CH% (pfx) wCH/C (pfx)
2009-10 232 58.50% -0.09 7.10% 2.01 7.10% 1.02 9.00% -2.69 18.20% 0.69

2011

Pre-2011 Fister attacked the zone, but without finesse. He was not methodical about how he went after hitters. However, in 2011, Fister started to blossom. He cut back drastically on his four seam fastball and relied more on his bread and butter pitches, the two seam fastball and curveball.

Year IP FA% (pfx) wFA/C (pfx) FT% (pfx) wFT/C (pfx) SL% (pfx) wSL/C (pfx) CU% (pfx) wCU/C (pfx) CH% (pfx) wCH/C (pfx)
2011 216.1 34.30% 0.45 25.10% 2.57 15.30% -0.75 14.90% 0.93 10.30% 1.29

Not only did he change up his repertoire, but he also started to locate and pitch to his strengths within the zone. He cut the plate into sections and began using a pattern of specific pitches in specific locations to amplify the pitch's strength and the hitter’s weakness.

Two seamers all day to right handers and away from left handers.

Four seam fastballs up and in to left handers.

Better burying of curveballs down in the dirt.

Changeups down and away from left handers.

And finally, Fister's overall zone profile.

Post-2011

Since his transformation, Fister has only fine-tuned his craft to become one of the better pitchers in baseball. He’s further mixed up his pitch selection to include more off-speed pitches.

Year IP FA% (pfx) wFA/C (pfx) FT% (pfx) wFT/C (pfx) SL% (pfx) wSL/C (pfx) CU% (pfx) wCU/C (pfx) CH% (pfx) wCH/C (pfx)
2012-13 370.1 20.50% 0.02 30.60% 0.58 6.90% -1.53 19.90% 0.9 14.60% 0.85

Fister calibrated his curveball into a deadly weapon as demonstrated below.

Finally, he began using his changeup with greater frequency and efficiency against righties.

The Future

Because pitchers are volatile by nature, it’s difficult to say with absolute certainty what the future holds for Fister. But, like Maddux, Fister has learned to do more with "less," and has become quite good at it. Fister is already a top flight starter, but by the look of things, he could be on the cusp of becoming Maddux-light. If nothing else, with a move over to the National League coupled with his excellent repertoire, Doug Fister should be poised to have a great 2014 season with the Washington Nationals.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.

Anthony Joshi-Pawlowic is a contributing writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @AJP13237.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker