Detroit Tigers: Your 2021 Rookie of the Year Front-Runner

Mar 17, 2021; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth inning at BayCare Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2021; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth inning at BayCare Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
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I may date myself with this reference but trust me when it comes to the Detroit Tigers, but walk with me here.

Comedian legend Rodney Dangerfield was known to do his “I get no respect” bit when he was doing standup and there is even a Twitter account that honors his comedic stylings. The setup was always the same but he was able to mix in different various statements that resulted in him not getting any respect.

For the Tigers, who are still in the rebuild, the road back to respectability is a long one and it appears that lack of respect has come at the cost of Tarik Skubal.

Here are some notable odds from Las Vegas on AL Rookie of the Year:

  • Randy Arozarera: +350
  • Jarred Kelenic +600
  • Wander Franco +1200
  • Casey Mize +2000
  • Dane Dunning +2500
  • Tarik Skuball +3000

All those names are very good players. For the most part, you can’t argue the logic behind those choices. But I found this funny when I saw the experts at MLB Pipeline give their takes on who will win the Rookie of the Year award and Tarik Skubal was not even a part of the discussion. I say it’s funny because the Tigers were just ranked number 2 overall in terms of farm system rankings so if they hold Detroit as a collective in high regard, why not Skubal?

Taking off my Detroit Tigers fandom glasses for a moment

The Detroit Tigers blog scene, mainly us and Bless You Boys, sometimes get a strange reputation that we are too “negative” on the team. But when it comes to Tarik Skubal, we all in unison scream “The front office got it right!”

No left-handed Tigers pitcher has ever won the AL Rookie of the Year award. Mark Fidyrch was the first Detroit Tigers pitcher to win the award in 1976 (Harvey Kuenn was the first Tiger to win the award in 1953) and the last Tigers player to win it was Michael Fulmer in 2016. Rather strange to think since the award started in 1947, it’s been only second baseman and right-handed starting pitchers who have won it for Detroit with Lou Whitaker in 1978 and Justin Verlander in 2006.

Why Skubal? The jump from the minors to the major leagues is a difficult one but having a K% of 27.6 is an item worth nothing. It is also worth noting he added a split-finger fastball to an impressive arsenal of a fastball, slider, and change. His fastball moves 11 inches away from a right-handed hitter, which is four inches higher than the average. In just a small sample size last year, his XBA against was just .222 however, the number that can’t be ignored is the XSLG, which is .461 which is considered above average but again, in 2020, with a small sample size, you get the drill.

The walks, the long innings in the spring for Skubal are factors you can’t ignore so I cant glance that over that easily. But a lefty power pitcher, the first of its kind here in Detroit is hard to ignore. His rise through the minors purely on strikeouts is something we have not seen from a Detroit Tigers prospect.

Granted, it is hard to compare guys from the past. Pitchers like Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Denny McLain (he did have a season in 1963 at the age of 19 in which he struck out 161 in 141 innings pitched) but growing up, when the prospect hype behind players that were coming up, only Justin Verlander’s Lakeland season of 2005 where he posted a K per 9 of 10.9 and he struck out 104 in 86 innings of work stands out.

The Nate Cornejos of the world that had the hype were just examples of win and loss records that were discussed but don’t really matter come to mind. In 2001, he was 16-3 between Erie and Toledo and I remember the daily papers discussing that angle quite a bit.

Double-A Erie is generally where you can see if a pitcher will have enough to get to the next level. Skubal posted a K per 9 of 17.4. Think about that for a second. 17.4 (82Ks in 42.1 IP). That’s just eye-popping.

Tarik Skubal has the pitching makeup to have a stellar year, regardless of the award but in a season where the offense may struggle, the pitching staff will be in the spotlight and Skubal will continue to build his resume not only locally but the national writers will also get to see what the hype is all about.

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