Detroit Tigers southpaw Tarik Skubal came back with authority.
The Detroit Tigers have been working to build a rotation for the future for years, well before Scott Harris and this regime arrived. In the early days, Casey Mize and Beau Burrows were expected to lead the way. Then Matt Manning would be slated to jump into the mix, but that's been a discussion of its own.
The underdog in the entire situation was the Detroit Tigers' former ninth-rounder, Tarik Skubal. The Seattle University product made a name for himself during his time in the minors. I was always the "high guy" on Skubal, going as far as seeing he was more valuable to Detroit than Mize at times during their respective prospect days. But now, both are recovering from injuries.
Well, Skubal has made his recovery and was able to get on the mound for Detroit in 2023. It's huge for the Tigers, who have to be thrilled with the results from their 26-year-old southpaw. He got his feet under him again in 2023, which is a big step in the right direction for what Detroit is trying to do.
They may not have the answers for the rebuild in 2024 or be able to make a mad dash up the standings to return to the postseason. But establishing a core and building their rotation will be a priority, and for Detroit, Skubal is the centerpiece or at least one of the core arms to work with.
Skubal made 15 starts after returning to the mound in 2023, accumulating 80.1 innings pitched for the Tigers. He pitched to a 2.80 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP while managing 14 walks to 102 strikeouts. The simple stats look good on paper with how Skubal performed, but even taking a deeper look, it's easy to see the success that Skubal was able to tap into in 2023.
Skubal's stuff was working for him. He's never been known to be a huge bat-misser or have insane stuff, but he had things working for him in 2023 and had an arsenal he could use to attack hitters to help lead to the success, as mentioned earlier on the mound. Skubal got a first-pitch swing over 30% of the time while throwing a first-pitch strike 62.6% of the time. He pitched to a 31.3% whiff rate as well, as evident from his Baseball Savant stats.
But speaking to his ability to command the zone, he managed a 69.4% In-Zone Swing %, being able to elicit swings. He managed to hold opponents to a 4.2% Barrel Rate, which speaks to being able to miss bats and keep opposing hitters from producing loud contact. He kept opponents to a .289 BABIP, being able to limit damage.
The point is that Skubal was exceptional on the mound in his shortened stint during the 2023 campaign. The Detroit Tigers should be thrilled with what the left-handed was able to do in his return from injury. He accrued some innings and proved that he had a clean bill of health. Moving forward, Detroit must ensure they view him as a core piece of the rotation.