Tigers Pitchers Have Themselves a Week
Fans of the Detroit Tigers haven’t exactly had much to cheer for in the last few seasons. They’ve been more consumed with draft picks and minor league development in hopes that the rebuilding process amounts to future success. At the beginning of this season, I wrote a preview where I said the “development and success of the future stars of the franchise” was most important in 2021. This week young Tigers pitchers offered some hope.
The Tigers went into Seattle this week to sweep the Mariners. Casey Mize, Spencer Turnbull and Tarik Skubal put together a streak of impressive outings. On Tuesday, Casey Mize tossed the longest outing of his young career, going 7.2 inning and fanning seven hitters. This adds to his most recent quality outings from earlier in the month (May 12 vs KC and May 5 @ Bos) where he went six inning in each start. Mize took the mound once again on Sunday, with yet another quality start. In the month of May, Mize is now posting a 1.73 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 26 innings of work.
On Tuesday, Spencer Turnbull became just the sixth Tiger pitcher in 118 years to throw a no-hitter. The last being Justin Verlander, ten years ago. Verlander threw two in his career with Detroit, 2011 at Toronto and 2007 vs Milwaukee. Prior to 2007, Jack Morris tossed a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1984. In 1952, Virgil Trucks tossed two no-nos in 1952. One came against the Washington Senators on May 15 and another on August 25th against the Yankees. Turnbull struck out nine and walked just two in his masterful performance. Like Mize, Turnbull might be turning a corner. His no-hitter comes off a quality 6.1 inning outing with 7 strikeouts on May 13th against the Royals.
On a side note, there’s an interesting dynamic regarding Mize and Turnbull, Though they are nearly fives years apart, both are native Alabamans. Mize was a standout at Auburn (War Eagle!) and the number one overall pick in the MLB Draft in 2018. Turnbull was the top starter at Alabama (Roll Tide!) in his college days and was drafted by the Tigers in the Second Round in 2014. This should make for an interesting dynamic on the pitching staff.
On Wednesday, Tarik Skubal fanned nine hitters in five innings and secured the win for the series sweep. Skubal was a 9th round pick out of Seattle University in the 2018 Draft (same year as Mize). His fast track through the minors was welcomed and unexpected. Skubal and Mize followed the same career trajectory, despite being picked in the same draft, 255 picks apart.
The Future Belongs to Pitching
Prior to Opening Day, the Tigers were named as the best farm system for pitchers. Mize and Skubal along with Matt Manning have been marked as the trifecta that would anchor the future starting rotation. If Turnbull continues to progress, he may find his way into the mix for years to come. By 2022, a Mize, Skubal, Turnbull and Manning rotation could be a force to recon with. It will also be interesting to see what the Tigers do with their #3 overall pick this year. Many mock drafts have the Tigers picking Kumar Rocker, the RHP from Vanderbilt.
There’s nothing wrong with the Tigers loading up the system with strong arms. The more pitchers the merrier, in my opinion. Those that don’t make the starting rotation, might find a role in the bullpen. Perhaps Beau Burrows or Alex Faedo will find themselves playing roles there. Maybe Michael Fulmer can reinvent his career as a closer. There’s perhaps nothing more important in the modern game than a solid bullpen. If Detroit can get this right, the rebuild may pan out after all.