Fister is 29 years old and has only pitched 610 regular season innings in the majors. He appears to have a productive career in front of him due to his smooth delivery.
When Fister was traded to the Tigers from the Seattle Mariners in July 2011, he arrived with a terrible record of 3-12. Fans may have fixated on this, even though his ERA of 3.33 gave a glimpse into what type of pitcher he is.
Once in Detroit, Fister took his pitching to another level by pitching for a playoff contender. He had an 8-1 record down the stretch with an ERA of 1.79 and showed fans how fortunate the Tigers were to have traded for him.
This past offseason, fans were speculating about Justin Verlander and Scherzer's future with the Tigers, but no one has brought up Fister's. While Fister is still signed through the 2015 season, it would be prudent of the Tigers to make him a priority over Scherzer and sign him to an extension next offseason.
While Scherzer has the gaudy numbers with a K/9 ratio of 11.1, and the hard fastball, he also has a violent pitching delivery that has caused concern—dating back to his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Scherzer hasn't had a serious injury, he has experienced some shoulder soreness as recently as last September.
On the other hand, Fister is the safer long-term bet. He won't wow anyone with a fastball in the high-90's, and doesn't have a reputation as a strikeout pitcher. However, he did set the AL record for consecutive strikeouts with nine, proving his fastball does have some life.
Fister's approach is that he is more economical with his pitches and doesn't need to throw hard to be successful. He has a ground ball to fly ball (G/F) ratio of .093 for his career, compared to Scherzer's career average of 0.72.
When only looking at 2012, however, Fister had a G/F ratio of 1.16 while Scherzer had a G/F ratio of 0.64. These numbers tend to suggest that Fister is improving by keeping the ball down in the strike zone and getting help inducing double plays to get him out of jams.
While no pitcher can accurately be predicted on their health or ability to pitch as they age, there are certain metrics that can give some insight into pitchers' futures. Since Fister doesn't need to rely on strikeouts for his success, his career average for pitches per plate appearance is 3.71, which is very good. This will help to limit the pitches he throws in games, and allow him to throw fewer pitches over the course of a season.
Another positive for Fister is that he has no long-term injury concerns, as he only missed time in 2012 with an oblique/left costochondral strain injury.
Scherzer has averaged a 4.10 pitches per plate appearance and can rack up pitch counts often due to his mentality as a power pitcher. Scherzer also has averaged 17.3 pitches per inning over the course of his career and should cut it down so he can avoid high pitch counts.
When Scherzer loses speed on his fastball, he'll need to adjust his pitching style. But he has yet to give any indication that he would still be successful once he loses his speed. While it is feasible for him to change his pitching style, his violent throwing motion would still remain a concern.
As the Tigers have some important free agent decisions coming up on the horizon, I strongly believe that Fister is the much safer option long-term and that the Tigers must find a way to keep him.
*Stats from baseball-reference.com