Detroit Tigers left-handed starter Tarik Skubal has some metrics to suggest he will have a bigger impact in 2022.
By Rogelio Castillo (Follow on Twitter @rogcastbaseball)
The Detroit Tigers left-hander has some metrics to suggest that he will have a bigger impact in 2022.
Tarik Skubal’s numbers last season was a mixture of potential and a pitcher still learning how to throw in the big leagues. He is the fastest Detroit Tigers to reach 200 strikeouts as a starting pitcher. Over the last 25-30 years, the biggest pitching names among Tigers starters have been always right-handers such as Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.
The core of the rotation of the 80s, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Dave Rozema, Milt Wilcox all were right-handers. The last left-hander starter the Detroit Tigers had in the All-Star game was Justin Thompson in 1997. While it’s only May, Tarik Skubal has the potential to be the next one.
In an article from Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press on April 26, ($) Petzold discussed the usage increase of off-speed pitches and Skubal’s ability to get first pitch strikes. Batters hit .333 against his fastball last season and hit 22 home runs off the pitch. While he generated 70 strikeouts against it, perhaps it was the usage of it, which was at 42.8%, is why teams were able to be so successful against the pitch.
But looks early on as Evan suggests, the mixing of pitches during the game has kept batters off-balance. It shows, as his ground ball rate has increased from 39% to 50%. What does that suggest? Batters are pounding his pitches into the ground, preventing them from lifting them out into the outfield. You want to get rid of home runs? You have the batters hit them into the ground.
Tarik Skubal’s change-up numbers suggest changes
Skubal throws five pitches, his four-seamer, a slider, a sinker (according to Baseball Savant, or could be a two-seamer) change-up and curve. His change-up is his fourth pitch in his repertoire so he throws it around 12% of the time. I was talking to Clay Snowden, who works for Just Baseball, and we both noticed that his change-up has increased vertical movement. According to Driveline.com, it’s ideal to for a left-handed pitcher to be mirrored across the vertical axis.
So far this season, it has jumped from 28.5 inches to 32.5, which is 8% above the league average. That pitch, along with his slider and sinker, has generated negative run values. Batters are hitting just .167 against it. Granted, last season, batters hit .176 against it, but with an increase in how he uses his other pitches, the data suggests he is sequencing his pitchers better. While his strikeout numbers are down, there is one number Clay pointed out that is down that I did not consider. Launch angles. They are just under 10 but it goes into what Skubal can do so far and that is getting batters to ground out more.
Instead of a revolution of a pitcher, we are witnessing a “Skubalution” as my podcast partner Chris Brown suggested.