HomeTrending MLB NewsThree ways Pirates' Paul Skenes can build off his MLB debut

Three ways Pirates’ Paul Skenes can build off his MLB debut

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More competitive ‘waste’ pitches

Skenes made a few magnificent pitches in his debut, but he also threw too many pitches — some with his vaunted four-seam fastball — that came nowhere close to the plate. Many of those pitches came with two strikes or on a 0-1 count, probably an effort by Skenes to get hitters to chase the pitches. 

Of course, nibbling at the corners when ahead in the count is a perfectly fine tactic, but Skenes must refine his approach in these scenarios.

Skenes doesn’t always have to hit the strike zone, but he should throw more pitches that will entice a hitter to swing to protect the plate. Pitches a foot or two away from the dish won’t do that with most MLB hitters, even if the batter is behind in the count.

Putting away hitters

This point goes hand in hand with the first, but even when Skenes was throwing strikes Saturday, he had an issue putting away hitters after getting to a 0-2 or 1-2 count. Several hitters got to that point and reached base, or at least forced Skenes to throw more pitches than he would have liked.

Skenes has a strong off-speed arsenal, so he shouldn’t struggle in this regard for long. He must consult with pitching coach Oscar Marin and veteran pitchers on the roster to develop strategies for using his nasty breaking balls in concert with his elite fastball.

Stretch it out

This one will come with time, so it’s not one we should expect or even hope to see on Friday, but Skenes must get deeper into games and throw more pitches. 

For the short term, Pittsburgh’s priority is protecting Skenes’ arm as he develops, but he’s expected to be a true ace in the future, so providing quality innings and protecting the bullpen will be a vital part of his job.

Working six innings in one of his last minor league starts was encouraging, but Skenes still only threw 75 pitches in that game. The 84 pitches he tossed against the Cubs on Saturday were the most he has thrown as a pro, and that number will need to start coming up soon.

Of course, throwing 84 pitches in four innings isn’t efficient either. That trend will change if he improves in the first two areas noted above.

The most important priority in terms of getting deeper into games is getting him ready to throw 100+ pitches, but it shouldn’t be much of a long-term issue.

In his final start of college, Skenes threw 120 pitches in an eight-inning, no-run masterpiece against No. 1 Wake Forest with a trip to the College World Series championship series on the line.

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