Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Fister was throwing lightning the other day when he struck out an American League record nine consecutive batters in a game against the Kansas City Royals. He was also apparently hit by lightning because the odds of him doing the former were about the same as the latter happening to him.
This is a case of the hand of God reaching down and anointing an otherwise OK player with immortality in an unusual statistical way. Think of all the strikeout pitchers who were more likely to fan nine guys in a row than Fister. Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan are among some of the finest pitchers in American League history and they didn’t do it. Give Fister a fist bump for his accomplishment.
When a baseball fan first hears about such a mark the normal reaction is “Wow!” Just the other day I was at a game where five of a team’s hitters struck out in a row and I was musing how all of those “Ks” lined up on the scorecard began to look distinctive. Fister’s line of nine straight K’s more resembled a bowling score sheet than a baseball scoreboard. Both involve throwing a heck of a lot of strikes.
We do not often speculate on a pitcher being so dominant, even for a little while like three innings straight where he strikes out everybody. Getting nine straight outs is impressive enough. Sometimes in the context of discussions of perfect games someone will say that a truly perfect game would be a pitcher striking out all 27 batters he faces. That is not ever going to happen in the major leagues, or at any level of professional baseball, but it seems to me I have read about it occurring in a high school game. That would probably be the highest level of play where the disparity of talent might allow such a thing.
As it turns out, Fister’s phenomenal one-game performance is not even an all-time record. Tom Seaver once struck out 10 straight batters in a National League game. When you hear that Seaver was the hurler it seems the feat was more believable, or more likely to occur, than Fister’s.
Not to disparage Fister. The right-hander is a decent pitcher, but unlike a Seaver, Johnson, Feller or Ryan, who are all Hall of Famers, this may be Fister’s brightest moment in the sun. Headed into the last week of the 2012 regular season Fister’s record is 10-9 with a 3.38 earned run average. He has 135 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings. He didn’t even get the decision in his nine-in-a-row game, although at his least his team won, 5-4. If the Tigers win the American League Central Division, edging out the White Sox, it will be said that Fister, helped, but it won’t be said that he led them to that crown.
Lifetime Fister’s record is 30-40 and he is 28, so maybe this will be the best baseball day he remembers as long as he lives. Up until now the most unusual thing about Fister’s career is that he stands 6-foot-8. The strikeout showing eclipses that. And maybe he will be approached for an endorsement opportunity–to appear on the cover of a box of Special K cereal.