Mike Fiers has struggled to begin the 2020 season, but that has been lost amongst the Oakland A’s late inning heroics.
It is understandable that the majority of the attention received by the Oakland A’s has focused on their flair for the dramatic. They have become the Cardiac Kids, their late inning heroics at the plate garnering plenty of attention nationwide. Any negative attention had been focused on Sean Manaea, Khris Davis, and Marcus Semien as they have struggled at the start of the season.
Those are not the only players off to a rough start. Mike Fiers has also struggled thus far in 2020, posting a 5.96 ERA and a 1.481 WHiP in his 25.2 innings. While he has walked only six batters, Fiers has also struck out just 11 hitters this season while 32 hits and seven homers.
Fiers has never been a strikeout pitcher, instead using his defense and working to limit hard contact. That has not worked this season, as his sharp decrease in strikeouts has been matched by a 6.3% increase in his hard hit rate.
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At the same time, Fiers’ already low velocity has decreased even further. After averaging 90.84 MPH last season, he is only averaging 88.12 MPH on his fastball this season. That decreased velocity has been notable on all of his pitches thus far as well.
In addition to that decreased velocity, Fiers has been catching more of the plate. According to PitchF/X, his fastball and sinker have had much worse location, being grooved 13.01% and 14.55% of the time respectively. As two of his three most frequently used offerings (he has thrown one more cutter than sinker so far in 2020) it is certainly troubling.
It is fair to wonder if Fiers can revert to the form he showed in 2018 and 2019. He had struggled before, with his 2017 campaign being the worst full season of his career before bouncing back. However, he is 35 years old now, and is entering the downside of his career. He may not have another bounceback season left.
The last six weeks of the season will go a long way towards Mike Fiers’ future. In the interim, the Oakland A’s starter has slid under the radar despite his struggles at the start of the season.