Mookie Betts Lauds Pirates Rookie Paul Skenes: ‘His Stuff Is Real’

Mookie Betts

Getty Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts only has 3 career at bats against Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Paul Skenes, but that was enough to get his attention.

The Dodgers infielder talked about Skenes in the June 12 episode of his Bleacher Report podcast, “On Base with Mookie Betts,” with guest Marcus Semien of the Texas Rangers.

Betts wasn’t quite ready to say Skenes is “worth the hype,” cautioning, “I don’t know yet. I can’t say because it’s going to take time for him to become who he really is going to become.”

But then he thought back to June 5 when the Dodgers visited Pittsburgh. In his first career at bat against Skenes, Betts struck out swinging. His second at bat wasn’t much better, resulting in a weak ground ball to third base, before Skenes struck him out again — this time looking — his third time up.

“But the time that I got to face him, his stuff is real,” Betts said. “He’s sitting 100 to 102 [mph], they call it the splinker I guess, splitter or sinker. It’s hard. He’s good.”

Betts then extended his praise to Jared Jones, the other Pirates rookie starter and the pitcher the Dodgers faced the day before. Betts went 0-2 against Jones with a walk.

“Jones is good too. Both of those guys are really good and really that Pirates staff, they’ve got a lot of really good arms, but Skenes and Jones, those guys are good,” Betts said.

Mookie Betts Caught Fire After Facing Paul Skenes

It turns out, all it took to break Betts out of a slump was three frustrating at bats against the most exciting young pitcher in baseball.

By the end of that game, a 10-6 Pirates win, Betts was stuck in a 1-24 slide over his past six games. Extending that further, he was hitting just .222 in his previous 18 games.

In the five games immediately after facing Skenes, Betts has gone 6-19 with 6 walks and a .480 on-base percentage. It’s a small sample size, but with a 1.059 OPS in that time — especially considering three of those games were in New York against the Yankees — he’s starting to look more like his old self.

Marcus Semien’s Take on Skenes

The Rangers won’t face the Pirates until August 19, so Semien hasn’t had a chance to step in against Skenes yet. Saying that he enjoys the “challenge of facing the best,” Semien weighed in on what he think makes Skenes especially dangerous.

“I turn on college baseball now and I’m like, ‘these dudes are all throwing 95 plus.’ It wasn’t like that before,” Semien said. “So as long as they can kind of fine-tune it and get into pro ball, especially a guy like Skenes sitting 100 and pitching, I think he is worth the hype. I’m looking forward to facing him.”

As Semien said, not only is Skenes throwing 100, he’s also “pitching” — mixing up what he throws and how he throws it to keep batters guessing. According to FanGraphs, Skenes only throws his fastball 41.5% of the time, also relying on his sinker (30.6%) and slider (17.9%). The other 10% of his pitches are either curveballs or changeups, giving Skenes a full arsenal, with average velocities ranging from 81.9 mph on his curveball to 99.3 mph on his fastball.

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