The Detroit Tigers are now a month deep into a stretch of quality, competitive baseball. That seemed impossible after a 9-24 start in which they sported an ugly -74 run differential, but since May 8th the Tigers are 16-10, and they’ve outscored their opponents 118-102.
It’s been an impressive turnaround, and credit goes to everyone involved. The coaching staff seems to be pushing the right buttons, and veterans like Jonathan Schoop and José Cisnero have really picked up their game. Akil Baddoo made adjustments, Willi Castro has shown improvement, and Eric Haase has been a one-man wrecking crew.
But it’s hard not to draw a clear and direct parallel between the Tigers’ resurgence and the performance of their young starters Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Spencer Turnbull. Just look at these numbers over the past 30 days:
In terms of ERA, Turnbull (9th), Mize (18th), and Skubal (30th) all rank in the top 30 among starters with at least 20 innings pitched over the last month. The Milwaukee Brewers are the only other team with three starters in the top 30.
This is the sort of performance Detroit Tigers fans and executives have dreamed of for years, and it’s nice to see it actually happen.
But we’re not the type to leave well enough alone, so let’s dig a little deeper to see if it’s actually real. We’ll leave Spencer Turnbull out of this because he’s more experienced, and it’s hard to know if he’ll come back as the same pitcher after his arm injury.
Let’s start with the bad news.
The Bad News: Detroit Tigers Starter Casey Mize
Casey Mize has been excellent for more than a month now, and we aren’t here to dispute his results. He’s produced a quality start in six of his last seven outings, and his one miss was five innings of one-run ball against the Yankees.
So what’s the issue?
Well, the problem is just about every “advanced” stat suggests Casey Mize’s performance has been a bit of a mirage. Check out the table below:
|Last 30 Days||5||32.0||2.25||.184||.222||4.05||3.60||.243||.296|
We realize these stats won’t be terribly familiar to some of you, but all they really say is Casey Mize has been a little lucky over the last month. He has definitely been better than he was to begin the season, but not as quite as good as the surface stats suggest.
Batters haven’t been finding the grass as much as they should have based on their quality of contact, and Mize’s ERA is about a run-and-a-half lower than it should be.
Baseball Savant’s color-coded percentile ranks offer a bit more proof. Casey Mize is throwing more strikes lately, and he’s above average when it comes to avoiding hard contact, but just about everything else is below average.
To be clear, we aren’t telling you Casey Mize is some bum. We’re just letting you know that while his recent results make him look like an Ace, the underlying data suggests he’s more of a mid-rotation starter. That’s fine! We just want fans to be prepared for a potential regression.
The Good News: Detroit Tigers Starter Tarik Skubal
Earlier this season Rogelio had a bit of a spicy take, suggesting Tarik Skubal could be this year’s American League Rookie of the Year. That wasn’t looking so great after the first month of the season, when Skubal was sporting a 6.14 ERA and allowing 3.5 home runs per 9 innings. But a funny thing happened in the last 30 days…
|Last 30 Days||5||27.0||3.00||.373||.211||2.70||3.13||.308||.279|
Tarik Skubal turned into one of the best pitchers in baseball. The underlying stats suggest it’s real, and if anything Skubal has been a bit unlucky.
His 2.70 FIP is the 12th best in baseball over the last 30 days, just behind Max Scherzer. His 36.5% strikeout rate is the 7th best. And guess who leads all American League rookies in fWAR over the last month, regardless of position? Tarik Skubal.
Maybe Rogelio’s take wasn’t that spicy after all.
Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are not finished products. Mize could remove some luck from the equation by getting a few more strikeouts, and Skubal could help his team by working deeper into games.
Five starts is a small sample, and every big-league pitcher is one disastrous outing away from an ugly stat line, but it definitely looks as though the Detroit Tigers have a pair of exciting rotation anchors for the future.
The bad news is Casey Mize might not be quite as good as he has looked. But the good news is Tarik Skubal might be a future Ace.