Wednesday, May 23, the Blue Jays will try to take an early series victory against the LA Angels. Aaron Sanchez will take the mound for the Blue Jays while Tyler Skaggs will climb the hill for the Halos.
Tyler Skaggs is just 26 years old, but he is already in his second stint with the Angles organization. Originally drafted by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 amateur players draft, Skaggs was traded in 2010 to the Diamondbacks, as part of a package for Dan Haren. Skaggs was then returned to his original major league team in 2013, in a deal that saw Mark Trumbo go to the Diamondbacks, Skaggs to the Angels, and Adam Eaton to the White Sox.
In his fifth year in the Angels system, Skaggs has been excellent through nine starts. In 50 innings pitched, the lefty has posted a 3-3 record, 2.88 ERA, 1.240 WHIP, 145 ERA+, and has been worth 1.0 fWAR.
The southpaw keeps his pitch selection simple: Skaggs offers a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball, and change-up. The young lefty is a predominantly fastball-curveball pitcher, seldom using changeup this season.
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The four-seamer is used the most, clocking in at a use rate of 41.6%. The heater does not have much velocity, currently averaging 92.24 mph. The lack of velocity is concerning since the fastball does not have much, if any, movement. Despite what one would expect, the fastball has allowed a decent .259 BAA and good .395 SLGA.
Skaggs features the curveball 32% of the time, while averaging a very slow 74.9 mph. As the slow velocity suggests, the curveball is a big breaker. Unlike some curveballs, Skagg’s hook is not a classic 12-6, it is more like a spike curveball without velocity. The curve has the ability to look like a high strike, only to end up at the batters back foot in the dirt. Despite great movement, the curve has produced whiffs on just 28.33% of swings. However, it has also produced groundballs on 75% of balls in play, a great rate for any pitch, let alone a curveball. As well, the whiffs have been productive, as the curve has produced 20 punch outs this year.
Skaggs utilizes his sinker 14.8% of the time, while averaging a velocity of 91.94 mph. The sinker has done its job this season, producing groundballs on 66.67% of balls in play. Even better, the pitch has allowed a tiny .167 BAA and great .222 SLGA. Also, it has allowed just one extra-base hit, a double.
Finally, the southpaw changes speeds on batters 10.44% of the time with a change-up that averages 84.75 mph. The change has produced line drives at a very high rate of 47.06% of balls in play. Despite this, it has produced a great .167 BAA and good .333 SLGA. However, the BABIP against the offering currently sits at an unrealistic .188. This BABIP, coupled with the high line drive rate, suggests that Skaggs has been lucky in the past with defensive positioning.
Favourable defence has been an asset for Skaggs all season. The lefty’s FIP currently sits at a fair-amount higher 3.32 than his low 2.88 ERA. However, his overall BABIP currently sits at .306, which is not unreasonable. As well, he has produced a good 51.4% ground ball rate. So, despite help from the defence, Skaggs has still pitched very well for the Angels. Skaggs pitches in front of three gold glovers (Simmons SS, Maldonado C, and Calhoun RF), so it is unsurprising that his FIP is higher than his ERA .
Skaggs has limited home runs at an impressive rate of 0.90 HR/9. Through nine starts, the southpaw has allowed just five home runs. Encouragingly for the Blue Jays, he has allowed three of these home runs over his past two starts.
The Blue Jays have limited experience against the California native. As a team, they have just 29 at-bats spread across 7 batters. Both Teoscar Hernandez and Russell Martin are perfect in one at-bat. Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak each have two hits in six and seven at-bats, respectively. Josh Donaldson has just one hit in six at-bats, but three walks in nine plate appearances.
The Blue Jays are going to need more help from their own pitching in this match-up. Skaggs has allowed more than two earned runs in just one start this year, an April loss to the Red Sox when he gave up six. Hopefully Sanchez can rediscover his 2016 form because this is shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel.