Tarik Skubal’s road to AL Cy Young begins on Tigers’ Opening Day in Chicago

Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal throws during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on
Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal throws during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

In a move that really should not surprise any Detroit Tigers fans, manager A.J. Hinch named left-hander Tarik Skubal the Opening Day starter when Detroit opens on the road against the Chicago White Sox on March 28.

Per Jason Beck on X, Skubal will be the first Opening Day starter drafted by the team since Justin Verlander in 2017, and continues a streak in which the Tigers have had a left-hander take the mound on the first start. Matthew Boyd got the nod in 2020 and 2021 and, over the last two seasons, Eduardo Rodriguez earned the honor.

For Skubal, this is special, but he doesn't go for labels, stating, "Labels, that's kind of the media's job to tag guys with that. You're not going to hear guys in the clubhouse refer to each other as the ace. My name is Skube. That's what I go by."

Detroit Tigers name Tarik Skubal Opening Day starter for 2024 MLB Season

Skubal, when healthy, is one of the most effective starters in baseball. He held batters to a .199 batting average over the 80 innings he pitched after he came back from surgery in 2023, and had the best FIP among qualified pitchers in the second half of the season, sitting at 2.00. His fWAR of 3.3 after returning on July 4th put him number one among all pitchers, which is why it should come as no surprise that Skubal is considered a favorite to win American League Cy Young, according to DraftKings.

While his presence on the mound continues to grow, Skubal has become more social in the clubhouse, eagerly anticipating the start of the season. This will be the first time he is looked to as the staff leader in a rotation that features two free agent signings, Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda, along with pitchers returning from injuries, Casey Mize and Matt Manning.

While the rest of the rotation depth maybe an ongoing item to look at closely for Detroit, stocked with arms without a track record, if Skubal can stay healthy, the label of "ace" maybe be unavoidable.

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