Before last year, few people had heard of him. Even me, a die-hard Brewers fan, had only a cursory knowledge that he was just some over-aged prospect in the minors who probably would never get out.
Then, his minor league career exploded.
At age 26, Fiers spent his time between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville. Over the course of the entire season (between both leagues), he went 13-3 and had a 1.86 ERA, 126 IP, 132 K, 0.944 WHIP and a SO/BB ratio of 3.67.
He hadn't been bad before then, but he had never been great. But his 2011 season in the minors positively put him on the map and earned him minor league pitcher of the year honors in Milwaukee. He even made his major league debut in 2011, pitching twice in relief for only two IP.
He entered this season at least hoping to make the bullpen out of spring training, but the Brewers (who, at the time, weren't decimated by injuries) sent Fiers down to AAA to continue developing. His 2012 minor league stats were mediocre, but still he got a call up to the majors because Wily Peralta was fumbling. And at 27, it was just time to give Fiers his first real shot in the majors. He had proven enough to that point.
In his first career MLB start on May 29, 2012, he dazzled. Seven innings, five hits, no walks, one earned run and three strikeouts. He made his first major league start, and he got his first major league win.
He then had a couple of rough outings against Pittsburgh and San Diego in which he gave up four earned runs apiece (but still managed 14 strikeouts in 11 IP). The two starts bloated his ERA to 4.50 in three starts, and while the talent was clearly there, people were beginning to question if he was meant to be in the starting rotation.
I'll just post the stat lines for each start to save the time.
6/24 at the Chicago White Sox: 7.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K
6/30 vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 10 K
Holy moly, Michael Fiers has arrived.
So far on the season (including his two mediocre starts), Fiers has a 2.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 39.1 IP, 41 K and has only walked eight batters. Ridiculous.
Where did this come from? Where has Michael Fiers been hiding? He was counted out as a prospect who was too old in the minors, didn't have the stuff to be a starter, didn't have great command over his low-velocity arsenal of pitches. But all of that has been proved wrong in the past month.
Fiers' fastball will occasionally touch 91 MPH, but typically sits around 88-90. He has a strange cutter/slider combo in the mid-80s, a very slow swooping curveball in the low 70s and, arguably his best pitch, a change-up with good fade in the upper-70s to lower-80s.
He has controlled all of these pitches extremely well. They all have great movement, and Fiers looks like he's been pitching in the majors for years now.
Could he continue to be a starter in the future? I guess only time will tell, but over the past month, no one has surprised me more than Mike Fiers. He has a chip on his shoulder and is pitching with passion and excellence.
He's the kind of guy who gets on the mound and you want to root for.
To answer the question posed in my article—I could tell you all about his history, why he's so old and just now getting his first chance, etc... but why? I don't know the answer. I don't know what has suddenly made Mike Fiers, a no-name "prospect" two years ago, pitch like an ace on a team that has been decimated by injuries.
All I know is that we have found someone to fill a hole, and he's filling it unbelievably well. I hope he's here for the long haul.