Evaluating Tarik Skubal’s MLB debut for Detroit Tigers

Detroit Free Press

Tigers general manager Al Avila tried to temper expectations when he introduced the three newest rookies on the team’s MLB roster — right-handed pitcher Casey Mize, lefty Tarik Skubal and third baseman Isaac Paredes.

“Remember that there’s guys in that past that we brought up (where) it takes a little while to really blend in and take off,” Avila said Monday. “But at the same time, it is exciting.”

In Skubal’s debut Tuesday, he gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk. He needed 52 pitches to get through two innings and only had one strikeout.

[ Detroit Tigers counting on Casey Mize, fellow top prospects to perform in shortened season ]

As debuts go, this one was forgettable. But it won’t even register as a blip in the larger picture of the rebuild. 

Skubal’s promotion was a bit of a surprise after he missed summer camp because of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Manager Ron Gardenhire had him on a 60-pitch limit, and his 30-pitch first inning Tuesday guaranteed a short night.

The young lefty never really had a chance to settle in during his debut, but we still came away with a few takeaways from his performance:

For subscribers: The special trait Alan Trammell and Jim Leyland see in Tarik Skubal


Skubal struggled to settle in after the first three hitters went home run-single-single. He started to miss his spots, began focusing on his fast fastball and struggled to command other pitches. Skubal didn’t get a called strike on any of his secondary pitches Tuesday night, according to Statcast, and when he did throw strikes he got hit: singles against his curveball and changeup with a double against his slider in the second inning.


Gardenhire has raved about Skubal’s ability to throw his fastball like a “fireball” — baseball code for really fast. He can touch 97 mph, but it took time to get there Tuesday. Tim Anderson’s leadoff homer for the White Sox came on a 93 mph fastball. Skubal’s fastball ended up averaging 95.2 mph, while his slider averaged 85.9 mph.


It went south pretty quickly, and it’s impossible to know how Skubal would have handled things without the jitters. He gave up seven hits and one walk and didn’t record back-to-back outs. This will go down as a learning experience.

Bouncing back

Skubal produced a double-play ball on a perfect 87 mph slider with two runners on and no outs in the first inning. And though he walked Edwin Encarnacion, he battled with James McCann before a fastball up in the zone got him to fly out. If Skubal had exited after the first inning, giving up just one run, he would have received higher praise, but he labored in the second inning without any ability to bounce back.


It didn’t help that the White Sox rolled out a lineup of eight right-handed hitters, and they are the most successful offensive team against the Tigers this season. Anderson now has three leadoff homers against the Tigers in 2020, which is something he did in Monday’s game against lefty Matthew Boyd to ignite a six-homer day for the White Sox.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content. 

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