After an underwhelming cup of coffee last year, Tyler Skaggs looked primed for the 5th spot in the Diamondbacks rotation, only to lose out to Patrick Corbin. I remember there was some dissension with that decision, but you don’t hear any of those arguments now! With Corbin obviously one of the biggest surprises of the season, Skaggs had a really rough start to his AAA assignment with his ERA climbing close to 7.00 through six starts, but then again it was with Reno in the Pacific Coast League.
Skaggs has put it together recently though, racking up a 30:5 K:BB ratio in 25.1 May innings and three straight quality starts. With Ian Kennedy ailing with a cut on his finger, Skaggs got the call for a spot start in a tough matchup in the first leg of a double-header against the Rangers. I don’t think expectations were huge for this game, but having never seen Skaggs pitch and with no knowledge of his repertoire, I decided to tune in for a Memorial Day special and break down his 2013 debut:
First Inning: Skaggs’ first pitch of 2013 is a 92 MPH fastball outside to Elvis Andrus. Skaggs is a pretty tall, lanky lefty; it’s funny he and Corbin were competing for a spot, they look pretty similar out there. Side note, Skaggs has one of those terrible Derek Holland mini-mustaches – get the kid a razor. He’s no Ron Swanson. Andrus fouls one back, and another fastball pounds the strike zone, 1-2. The next pitch is an 84 MPH change-up and Andrus rips it – barely foul. Again to the fastball at 93, Andrus inside-outs it through first and second for a leadoff single. That wasn’t the best of base hits, but Skaggs was in the zone and pays for it early. The first pitch to Jurickson Profar is a fastball pretty well placed on the outside edge, but Profar rips it hard right to center for a loud out, one down. Skaggs again pounds the zone with a heater to get up 0-1 to Adrian Beltre and for some reason catcher Wil Nieves comes out for a quick talk. Not sure what the catcher spotted there. The next pitch is an 84 MPH change-up that is spiked at about 57 feet, Nieves blocks it but it’s far enough away to get Andrus to second. Got to have better control of your change-up. Skaggs stays with the change and its flat and high but fouled off, then a fastball at the letters is chopped to first for the second out. So with two outs, Andrus at third, it’s Nelson Cruz who takes a fastball right at the upper black for strike one. Another fastball at 91 MPH looked an inch higher and Skaggs somehow gets the call, 0-2. Both of those looked high. But then Skaggs dials up his first curveball, an absolute monster at 76 MPH, that breaks 10-4 and about 2 feet to strike Cruz out swinging. Man, that’s one of the best curveballs I’ve seen this year, and I watch a lot of pitching.
Second Inning: Skaggs picks up an early run of support, and starts Mitch Moreland with an 89 MPH fastball taken for strike one. Then there’s that huge curveball, not as sharp this time but still all over the place at 74 MPH that bends outside, then another heater is in there, 1-2. Another fastball on the outside corner is laced hard, but foul about 10 feet short and left of the left field foul pole. Then another fastball out there is again hit hard opposite field near the same spot and out of play, still 1-2. Then Skaggs moves from the outside and paints the inside lower corner with a fastball that moved from too far inside to the lower zone, taken for strike 3. Nice pitch with good movement, 2 Ks. Skaggs starts Jeff Baker with a change-up, that time a good one, in there for a strike. Skaggs misses, then a fastball is crushed to right center, off the wall for a double. Baker was all over that, and about a foot away from a homer. Skaggs again starts with the change-up, and it’s another good one to Geovany Soto who swings-and-misses, then again the same pitch gets him swinging, 0-2. That change-up is a different pitch from what we saw in the first. Skaggs rolls another one of those huge curveballs but it’s too far inside, 1-2, then a 91 MPH fastball jams Soto who rolls it to first, 2 down. The first pitch to Craig Gentry is low, then another change-up is spiked in the dirt, 2-0. Nieves saved a run there, that pitch was awful. Then the decision is to intentionally walk Gentry, and the first one almost gets away from Nieves. How so many pitchers struggle with intentional walks is beyond me. So Nieves saves a run twice, and runners on first and third with opposing pitcher Martin Perez up. Perez fouls a fastball, then Skaggs blows one by him, 0-2. Skaggs again blows him away with a fastball, Perez looked awful trying to hit, and it’s 3 Ks for Skaggs.
Third Inning: Skaggs has got to love pitching with that strong offense, and is now protecting a 3-0 lead. He starts Andrus with a change-up on the outside corner, 0-1. Another change-up dips barely low, looked good to me, but it’s 1-1 then a change-up that looked high is called strike two, 1-2. That strike zone is about 2 inches higher than most right now. Andrus foul tips one, then Skaggs misses high, then that huge curveball is grounded weakly to third, one down. Skaggs starts Profar with that curveball for strike one, a change is low, but then a fastball – way too over the plate – is crushed to left, and just like Baker hits the wall about a foot away from a homer for a double. Skaggs starts Beltre with a change, strike one, then a fastball is too far inside, 1-1. Another heater is fouled back, then there’s that curve, swinging is Beltre for strike three, what a pitch! 4 Ks. A 90 MPH fastball taken by Cruz gets Skaggs ahead 0-1, then another fastball is hit hard but Cruz got too far under it and it’s caught by Gerardo Parra in front of the track in right field to end the inning.
Fourth Inning: Skaggs starts the fourth with a curveball that stays high, then a fastball is roped hard to center, but it’s a loud out for Moreland on two pitches. Skaggs paints the outside corner at 90 MPH for strike one to Baker, then that curveball that I am still “ooohing” at, clocking at 75 MPH, cuts across the entire strike zone and gets a swing-and-miss, 0-2. Skaggs misses high, then tries the curve but it dives into the dirt, 2-2. Skaggs is too far inside to make it full, then a change-up is inside and Skaggs loses him on a walk after being up 0-2. Then Skaggs starts Soto with a curveball that starts about a foot too high and six inches too far outside that bends in and paints the bottom outside corner for strike one looking. I need to calm it down, but just an amazing pitch. A change-up gets a swing-and-miss, another 0-2 count, then Soto fouls one off, then that curve, a beaut, dives down with a tight rotation, gets Soto to swing-and-miss for Skaggs’ 5th K. Skaggs misses twice to Gentry, then gets him to roll one foul, before missing again outside, 3-1. A fastball is then grounded out weakly to short, and Skaggs is through four scoreless.
Fifth Inning: Still protecting a 3-0 lead, Skaggs’ 67th pitch is a fastball taken for strike one by Perez, then Skaggs misses, 1-1. Outside, then in there, all of these fastballs at 88 and 89, then blows him away at 90 MPH with a fastball high, one down, 6 Ks. Skaggs paints the outside corner for strike one to Andrus, and now has first pitch strikes on 15 of 19 hitters. Skaggs misses twice, then a change-up gets Andrus swinging, 2-2. Skaggs goes with the bender that Andrus barely nicks to stay alive, then another curve is hit pretty hard to Martin Prado at third but Prado makes a solid play, two down. Skaggs misses to Profar, then again too far outside, 2-0. Skaggs again is too low, and he hits his leg in frustration down 3-0. Skaggs misses low again with the fastball for a four pitch walk. Hoping to bounce back, Skaggs gets a change-up over for strike one to Beltre, then a curve is low, followed by a fastball fouled back, 1-2. Skaggs misses high with the fastball, all his heaters seem to be 88-89 now, then a curve is fouled off Beltre’s foot, 2-2. Another curveball, a fantastic one boring on Beltre’s hands, gets him to swing-and-miss, 7 Ks! At 88 pitches, I’m sure Skaggs gets one more inning.
Sixth Inning: Skaggs is back out there, and gets a swing-and-miss on a fantastic change-up to Cruz, then misses low with the fastball, 1-1. Another huge bender gets the call on the inside lower corner, 1-2, then again goes to it, it dives another foot to go into the dirt, and gets Cruz swinging, 8 Ks. Skaggs misses outside to Moreland, then a fastball is crushed opposite field to Cody Ross, but it’s right to him, two down. Skaggs misses twice to Baker, then is outside, 3-0. At 96 pitches, Skaggs is almost certainly done with one more out. He’s in the zone, 3-1, then a fastball fouled out of play, full count. Big pitch here, the crowd gets loud, and another is fouled off. At 99 pitches, it would be awesome if this next one could be a K. But it’s another fouled straight back. Yet another fouled, then his final pitch, and what else would you expect, a 75 MPH fastball, that bent from high and out of the zone to the bottom black, gets Baker swinging, 9 Ks. That would’ve been a strike either way! What an outing.
Final Line: 6 IP 103 Pitches (67 Strikes) 3 Hits 3 Walks (1 IBB) 9 K Gamescore: 72 Gamescore+: 74.6
Final Analysis: Just an unreal debut against a really tough offense, and I’m so glad I tuned in. Despite a few hard hit outs and 2 really well hit doubles, the high strike outs gave Skaggs a Gamescore+ higher than his Gamescore, which I would agree with assessing this start.
Featuring a fastball that topped out at 93 MPH, Skaggs has just enough on that pitch to compliment an at times fantastic change-up and ridiculous curveball. The change-up still seemed like it needs work – I wouldn’t be surprised if Skaggs throws a lot of those when he’s back in the Minors – however when it was on it was on. But that curveball is unreal. Imagine that scene from Rookie Of The Year where the kid has to “float it” to get the last hitter out – it’s like that, except in the mid 70s instead of 15 MPH.
While I love his stuff, the fastball was hittable and barely Major League average through this debut, and the change-up needs to be consistent. The fastball lost about 3-4 MPH in the last 2 innings, and every hit came off the heater. Not to mention both the doubles were barely kept in the park, along with a few hard hit balls like the two flyouts by Moreland, coming off the heater as well. But if the change-up can be consistent and Skaggs doesn’t need his fastball very often, I think Skaggs can have a real surprising impact. By all accounts and despite a strong debut, I don’t think he’s going to stick in the rotation right now (Kennedy should only miss one start), but dynasty league owners need to scoop him up. If he’s called up for another spot start or a D’backs starter gets hurt more severely, I think he can be a great matchup play in even shallow mixed leagues. If his spot in the rotation is assured for a long duration, I think he’s 10-team ownable.
Have a happy Memorial Day everyone, and thanks to everyone who puts it all on the line so we can play and enjoy fantasy sports.