Fister's first season in D.C. a major success

This weekend just felt weird. After baseball being so much of a focus of my daily life for the past eight-plus months, to go an entire weekend without watching any baseball whatsoever was a bit bizarre.

Luckily, we only have to go one more day before the World Series kicks off between the Giants and Royals in what should be an entertaining battle between two red-hot teams.

Over the next five days, I'm going to be highlighting five different players who I feel like made a very strong impression during the 2014 season, guys whose contributions we'll remember well into the offseason.

First on the list is Doug Fister.

Doug-Fister-NLDS.jpgFister's Nationals career certainly didn't begin as he would have hoped. He suffered multiple injuries in spring training - first inflammation in his right elbow and then a strained lat muscle, which kept him on the disabled list for the first month of the season.

But despite missing that time, Fister still put together a tremendous first season in D.C., only increasing the questions around the league about how Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was able to acquire a frontline starter for just Robbie Ray, Ian Krol and Steve Lombardozzi.

Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.079 WHIP in his 164 innings of work this season. The 6-foot-8 right-hander posted the sixth-best ERA of any qualified starter in the majors, allowed the fourth-fewest walks per nine innings of any qualified starter and delivered a gem in his only postseason start, throwing seven scoreless innings in a must-win game on the road in the National League Division Series.

Interestingly enough, Fister allowed more homers this season than he had in any other year in the big leagues, and he saw his strikeout/nine innings rate drop to 5.4, a decrease of 1.5 strikeouts from last season. Neither of those negative trends seemed to affect him much, however.

Additionally, Fister proved to be one of the better defensive pitchers we've seen in D.C., laid down nine sacrifice bunts and overall just approached the game as a total professional.

On top of all that, you could also tell how much Fister's presence alone made a positive impression on the Nats rotation.

Gio Gonzalez talked about how much he learned about working quickly and attacking hitters by watching Fister operate. Stephen Strasburg fired questions at Fister, picking his brain about how to go about his business on the mound.

Fister is by no means an old man in this league - he's just 30 after all - but in a relatively young Nats rotation, he's the guy with the most experience, the one who led the way for the group. Fister has pitched in the World Series. He's been through the battles before. And because of how cerebral and insightful he is, he makes for a tremendous mentor.

Fister is under contract for one more season - his final arbitration year - and is due to make a significant raise over the $7.2 million he made in 2014. As mentioned earlier in this space, the Nats could look to pick up talks with Fister about a contract extension this offseason, and he would likely require less of a financial commitment than Jordan Zimmermann, who is also set to become a free agent after the 2015 campaign.

Internally, the Nats were thrilled with how Fister impacted their organization this season, and I know most fans enjoyed getting their first real look at the big right-hander this year, as well.

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