GLENN GUILBEAU: Paul Skenes Has Opened His MLB Career At 100 MPH, So Enjoy It

Former LSU All-American Paul Skenes PHOTO COURTESY: MLB Pipeline Twitter

Few in the history of Major League Baseball have opened their careers with the pedal to the metal like former LSU great Paul Skenes.

In just two starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the No. 1 pick of the 2023 MLB Draft – mere weeks after winning the national championship with the Tigers and taking the College World Series MVP – Skenes already is the reboot of Nolan Ryan.

Or maybe even Sidd Finch, the cover boy of the April 1, 1985, Sports Illustrated who threw 168 mph in the New York Mets organization. That was April Fool’s Day.

Paul Skenes is the real thing and has been since he was at Air Force trying to choose between flying F-16s or throwing at seemingly Mach 1 speed. He may one day do both, if he doesn’t pitch until he’s 46 like Ryan.

-He no-hit Chicago through six innings and 100 pitches at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon, leaving after the sixth as the Pirates organization wisely will not extend him so early in his career. His previous high for pitches in a game as a pro was 84 in his MLB debut in a four-inning, no-decision against the same Cubs the previous week in Pittsburgh. No one hit a ball out of the infield until the fifth Friday. It was like he was still at LSU. Skenes struck out 11 and left with Pittsburgh up 8-0 of a 9-3 win and got his first MLB win.

-Skenes’ seven strikeouts to start Friday’s game was the third longest to open a game by a rookie since 1920.

-He struck out his 11th batter like he did his first one – at 100 mph. Six of his 11 strikeouts were on 100 mph or faster pitches. That was the third most 100 mph strikeouts in MLB since 2008 when they started tracking that.

– Skenes 29 pitches of 100 mph or faster leads all of MLB after just two starts. The Angels’ Jose Soriano has 28 … in seven games.

– The last pitcher age 21 or younger to strike out 10 or more with one hit or less allowed at Wrigley was the Cubs’ Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998, when he struck out 20 Astros. The Cubs pitched him too much that season, though, and he didn’t last long with much effectiveness. The next spring he had the ulna collateral ligament procedure (Tommy John surgery). After going 8-9 in 2004, he never won more than three games from 2005-12 and was done.

-In his first start, Skenes threw nine of the 10 fastest pitches in MLB, according to WTF Stats on X.

So, how long before Skenes has surgery? That has been the question from many in the media. But they may not know what a healthy machine and between-starts-workout fiend Skenes has been for years. Not only is he pitching like Ryan, he takes care of his body like him.

“Nolan Ryan is the exception,” said Josh Walker, who was LSU’s baseball trainer last season. Walker now is a trainer at Trifecta Sports Therapy in Baton Rouge.

“Paul is that same thing,” Walker said. “I’m not by any stretch saying that Paul is Nolan Ryan, but he works out much the same way. He’s so disciplined day-to-day that he sets himself up at such an elite level to stay healthy. His ability to bounce back was as impressive as his ability to just pitch. You just rarely see that.”

And he is 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds and skillfully uses his lower body like a master, thus taking pressure off the arm.

The Air Force Academy had much to do with his discipline and efficiency. And he never had as much as a sore arm at LSU and has not had that as a professional yet either. In fact, while with Triple-A Indianapolis, he complained that the Pirates were babying him too much. Good strategy by the Pirates.

“Just the attention to detail, the work ethic, the deliberate nature in which he does everything,” said LSU coach Jay Johnson. Skenes spent his whole off-season at LSU working out.

“He’s going to be able to sustain it because of how he goes about everything that he does,” Johnson said. “The Pirates – they should be smiling.”

Skenes starts again Thursday at 1:35 p.m. against San Francisco on the MLB Network.

Watch and enjoy. And don’t be surprised if he thrives and lasts for decades.

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Glenn Guilbeau

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