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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Detroit is on their heels in Tarik Skubal’s debut

The power lefty is making his debut in the middle of a rough patch and as his team attempts to stop the bleeding.

Southeastern v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

There’s no more efficient buzzkill for an excited fanbase quite like big ol’ losing streak, and the Tigers have provided just that. After a surprising hot start that placed the Tigers near the top of the American League leaderboard, they’ve gone on to lose six straight games, punctuated by their 20th straight loss to the Cleveland Indians and a fireworks show in last night’s game.

The front office decided a shakeup was in order, announcing yesterday in a Zoom press conference that 3B Isaac Paredes, RHP Casey Mize, and LHP Tarik Skubal would be recalled to join the major league club. Understandably, the news that three of the team’s most exciting prospects would soon debut awakened the fanbase and sent ripples of excitement through Tigers social media. The first of those three, Paredes, made his debut in Monday’s contest. Today, it’s Skubal’s turn to play his first major league game.

Skubal, a ninth round draft pick, has grown immensely popular among prospect junkies nationwide during his two seasons as a professional. His electric fastball proved to be virtually unhittable for minor league batters and he earned an outlandishly good stat line facing Double-A hitters. The excitement surrounding his potential major league future among Tigers fans has reached a fever pitch, and we’ll get a first taste of how his talent will play in the MLB tonight.

Detroit Tigers (9-11) at Chicago White Sox (12-11)

Time/Place: 8:10 pm, Guaranteed Rate Field
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching matchup: RHP Dylan Cease (3-1, 3.26 ERA) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (2-3, 2.13 ERA in Double-A)

Game 21 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Cease 19.1 16.90% 7.20% 6.27 -0.1
Skubal (2019, Double-A) 42.1 48.20% 10.60% 1.26 n/a

Cease bears something of a resemblance to Skubal in that, while he wasn’t a complete nobody before his breakout campaign, his rise to national popularity was sudden and in large part due to how well his fastball played against minor leaguers. He also serves as something of a cautionary tale when it comes to expectations surrounding a major pitching prospect. He’s far too young to be considered a bust yet, but his rookie campaign wasn’t quite the thrill ride that some had hoped for, considering his electric stuff. He’s still figuring things out as a 24 year old.

Entering this game, his 2020 season has been a bit rocky. He’s not striking out batters in the quantities he did last season and the rate at which he’s giving up hard contact jumped a full 12 points. Think of it this way — if you take his numbers as a whole, Dylan Cease has been turning the entire league into Bo Bichette. That bodes well for a Tigers offense that has seemingly been loathe to score runs in the past week.

Key Matchup: Tigers fans vs. their expectations

Watching Skubal pitch in the major leagues for the first game of what will hopefully be a lengthy career, it’s important to stay grounded in reality. Of course, he was able to positively throttle opposing lineups in Double-A, but there’s almost no comparison between an average Double-A offense and the White Sox’ lineup — a lineup which also happens to be on a rampage lately.

It’s reasonable to expect a certain level of failure on his part, simply for the fact that he’s never had to face off with this kind of competition before. He also isn’t yet stretched out enough to go more than about 60 pitches. Circumstances for this debut are far from ideal, and even under perfect conditions, getting hit around in your debut is hardly a rare occurrence. When that happens, just remember that it’s normal.

Not everyone can be Rookie of the Year.

Prediction: The Tigers’ losing streak extends to eight games with after a less than stellar debut from Skubal and poor outing by the bullpen to follow.