Tarik Skubal's first start means more than meets the eye for the Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers took home the win on Opening Day, but the first start from Tarik Skubal showed more than meets the eye. Dive into his first start below.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) delivers a
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) delivers a / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are off and running, with a 1-0 record and all the morale in the world. They started off strong and picked up a big win to kick off the season, getting the first one out of the way. They're in a position to make a statement against the White Sox in weekend one, but game one was a good start.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal took the ball on Opening Day, making some noise with his first start. Sure, Corbin Burnes made some noise with his start for the Baltimore Orioles and he is the American League Cy Young favorite, but Skubal might as well be labeled as a favorite as well.

Skubal needs to be viewed as a real threat to win the Cy Young award this year because he has the chance to do so. He's the ace of this staff, and even after one start, it's easy to see why there's intrigue with Skubal. His 2024 season could be special if he can succeed as he did in starting no. 1 of the year.

The Tigers have to extend Skubal, and the Mitch Keller extension offered them a roadmap for this. However, a big performance in 2024 could cause that contract value to increase a bit more. So that's a decision that will need to be made down the line. But we're here to talk about Skubal's first start of the year. Let's dive into it.

Detroit Tigers ace Tarik Skubal made some serious noise on Opening Day.

In his first outing, Skubal's pitch mix worked well. He sequenced well and was able to mix his pitches to not rely on the fastball too much. For a guy whose "stuff" has been talked down on at times, he looked pretty darn good. He finished the day with a quality line.

Skubal pitched 6.0 innings, allowing three hits, walking none, and striking out six opposing hitters. He shut out the White Sox and was able to get the job done, looking the part of an "ace" in game one. It means a lot to see him get the job done like this.

His fastball averaged 96.6 mph, with four-seamers and sinkers in the mix. Both pitches could spin up into the 2100-200 RPM range, and he commanded them well. The White Sox were 1-for-11 on the fastball, with a 45% whiff rate on the four-seamer and a 30% whiff rate on the sinker, per Baseball Savant.

His offspeed was working for him as well. He turned to the changeup often in the game, showing it 22 times, which was good for a 27% usage on the day. The changeup worked in the mid-80s, killing spin well down into the 1,700 RPM range. It had a 50% whiff rate, and while two hits came on changeups, he did find ways to utilize the pitch well.

On top of that, he showed his usual slider with a vicious shape and a knuckle curve as well. The knuckle curve was only shown three times, but the slider was thrown 11 times, getting up into the upper 80s with good sweep and depth to it. It spun above 2,000 RPMs and had a 40% whiff rate on the day.

Skubal threw strikes, too -- 71% of his pitches on Opening Day were for strikes, with a 40.8 % whiff rate overall. He held the opposition off the board regarding barrels, with three hits, but none were deemed "barrels" by Statcast. For the Tigers, this says a lot.

The Tigers have a long season ahead, but Skubal is locked and loaded. He's in a position to make some noise, and rolling upstarts like this will only help them succeed in 2024. Plus, a big year from Skubal will vault him into the Cy Young conversation.