Location, location, location, a term most popularly used when it comes to real estate, is a phrase that should be engrained into the minds of fantasy baseball players when they hear the name, Tarik Skubal. In a sense it makes sense, high priced real estate is usually due to a great location and maybe just maybe if Tarik Skubal could develop better location on his pitches he could become a high-priced draft pick. For now, though, he isn’t. Although some are painting that pretty picture. Some are taking that house in that mediocre location and trying to dress it up nicely when we all know behind those pretty flowers and beautiful strikeouts he really is just, well, average.
Let’s start our journey off simple and let’s look at his basic statistics. In 2021 he pitched in 31 appearances with 29 of those being games he started. In those 31 appearances, he finished with 149.1 innings, a 4.34 ERA, and a 1.26 WHIP.
Sticking to basics here are his basic underlying metrics, 5.09 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, 18.5 K-BB%, and a 3.92 SIERA. A mixed bag for the most part and from the looks of it Steamer projects his ERA to settle in around 4.13 for 2022.
All of this certainly makes sense and while his ERA from 2021 seemed lucky his SIERA shows improvement is coming anyway. Plus he is 25-years-old, apparently works with Driveline, and had five starts where he had nine strikeouts or more. All good and dandy right? Maybe if you fall for the pretty flowers in front of that mediocre house in a mediocre location.
You, yes you the reader, you are smarter than that though, right? You look past the obvious you push aside those flowers and you see the train tracks right behind that house and realize…this isn’t so great after all.
Stuff+ is a metric created by Eno Sarris and the metric involves a multitude of different things on the individual pitch level. Things like release point, velocity, movement, and even extension. Stuff+ is a fantastic tool. Tarik Skubal’s Stuff+ rating is 95.5. 95.5 ranks 69th amongst all starting pitchers with a 2000 pitch minimum.
Location+ is another metric that Eno Sarris uses and it involves the pitcher throwing a pitch where he means to throw it. If he aims outside of the zone does he hit it? Those kinds of things. Tarik Skubal’s Location+ is 102.1. 102.1 ranks 46th amongst all starting pitchers with a 2000 pitch minimum.
Let’s talk about contact, wOBAcon is weighted on base average based on contact. Skubal’s wOBAcon in 2021 was .416 which ranks fifth-worst in the league. Well was he unlucky? Nope, his xwOBacon of .444 ranked 96th (dead last) in the league. Let’s stick to contact, his Barrel% against (predictor for power) was 13.9% which also ranked 96th in the league. Dead last. He lets up a lot of hard contact.
Here is Tarik Skubal’s pitch mix throughout the season by month.
We see a ton of pitch mix changes going on here but most what is most notable is the decline in his four-seam usage. The problem is when he drops that four-seam usage under 40% his strikeout rate seems to dip. Here are his strikeout rates by month:
Based on the chart above some of his highest strikeout rate months came when he used his four-seam fastball more. That’s a major problem because here are his four-seam fastball numbers.
Those numbers are all horrendous, in fact worse than horrendous and it’s because of location. He misses in the middle too often. He leaves his four-seam over the heart of the plate 34.4% of the time and when he does his four-seam has a .529 ISO and .500 wOBA against it. But this isn’t the only pitch where he struggles with location.
His slider which is supposed to be his strikeout pitch is a problem. Movement matters with sliders but we all know location is king. A great location on a slider leads to good results. Last season he left his slider in the heart of the zone 31.0% of the time. Comparing that to a pitcher who had a lot of success with his slider for his career, Patrick Corbin last season left his slider in the heart of the zone just 17.7% of the time. Not good.
Even his sinker is vulnerable to pitch location woes. A sinker you want to hit the edges with and with sinkers you have a very small margin of error. Well, you guessed it, he left his sinker over the heart of the zone 32.3% of the time leading to a .467 ISO and .514 wOBA against.
On Twitter I decided to post a poll with three starting pitchers. These three pitchers are currently going relatively close to each other in drafts. Here is the poll:
I’m very curious about this one. Which starting pitcher do you prefer?
— Michael Simione (@SPStreamer) January 4, 2022
Tarik Skubal came out on top while Jordan Montgomery was left in the dust. Let’s compare the two with numbers and see if the Twitter world got this one right (they did not).
Here are their fastballs compared to each other (note that Montgomery mainly throws a sinker so that’s why the SwStr% is a lot lower.)
Montgomery seems to have a pitch that is a lot more workable than Skubal’s four-seam. How about their breaking stuff, let’s take a look at that.
|Jordan Montgomery’s breaking pitches.|
|Tarik Skubal’s breaking pitches.|
Both clearly need to work on their fastball issues but Jordan Montgomery should get more innings and has already proven what we are hoping Tarik Skubal can prove. Additionally, it looks like Montgomery can be just as lethal in the strikeout department as Skubal.
As for Tarik Skubal overall, his ADP isn’t necessarily too high but he doesn’t seem to be the best option in that part of the draft. The other issue is there are a lot of people who love him so his ADP could quickly rise. The risk isn’t worth the reward and while he could see growth there is just too much to work on. Two years down the line can he be great? Absolutely. 2022 though, I am not so sure.
It comes down to just one major thing.
Location, location, location.