Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Why Jack Flaherty should join Tarik Skubal as an AL All-Star

Look, we know this already: Tarik Skubal is going to represent the Detroit Tigers in the 2024 MLB All-Star Game.

Short of his left arm falling off — and even then, we suspect MLB commissioner Rob Manfred might duct-tape it back on and pretend like nothing happened, just to keep from having to pick an alternate Tiger for the squad — Skubal appears to have his ticket punched for Arlington, Texas, on July 16.

Skubal struck out 10 Milwaukee Brewers while allowing just one run over 6⅔ innings Sunday, moving into third in the American League in strikeouts (96) and second in ERA (1.92), while remaining first in WHIP (0.891) in 79⅔ innings. Those are, as the kids say, video game numbers, and that’s before we get to his ridiculous 101.7 mph four-seam fastball in Sunday’s third inning.

"I'll take it," Skubal said after the game. "I was surprised, as well, but I'm going to take it."

Likewise, when the players’ ballots are tallied and the AL’s pitching staff is announced July 7, Skubal won’t be surprised, but he will be taking his first trip to an All-Star Game.

Hello, and welcome to the Two-Star Newsletter.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sunday, June 9, 2024.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal (29) throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sunday, June 9, 2024.

And now that we’ve settled that, let’s get on with the — What about a SECOND Tigers All-Star?

Sorry, what? TWO Tigers heading to the Midsummer Classic? Did Miguel Cabrera unretire? Does Javy Báez have compromising photos of the commish?

No, but, c'mon, the Tigers are just two games out of an AL wild-card berth — they can’t get two All-Stars?

Well, we suppose stranger things have happened — Michael Lorenzen made it last year after posting a 5.30 ERA in June — so let’s run through the odds for some potential Tigers All-Stars (especially if Skubal’s left arm does actually fall off).

The usual caveats: Fan voting on position players began Wednesday, with the first round wrapping up June 27. Pitchers are selected via player vote and the ever-nebulous “selections made by the Commissioner’s Office,” meaning there actually is a chance of a second Tigers All-Star, but we’ll get to him in a bit …

DH Kerry Carpenter — 1,000-to-1

The 26-year-old was in the midst of a breakout season — his .914 OPS is eighth among AL hitters with at least 160 plate appearances — before an ailing back shut him down at the end of May. He appears likely to miss all of June as well and will need some time to rediscover his swing once he returns. But if he was healthy …

RHP Will Vest — 500-to-1

The former Rule 5 draft pick (who was returned by Seattle in 2021) has developed into perhaps the Tigers’ most effective right-handed reliever, with 22 strikeouts and just six walks in 27 innings. That includes a 15-to-3 ratio in 14⅓ innings since the start of May, as Vest has dropped his ERA from 4.97 to 3.00. By Fangraphs’ calculations, Vest (0.3 fWAR) has been the top Tigers reliever.

Detroit Tigers outfielders Matt Vierling, Riley Greene and Wenceel Pérez celebrate after their win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2024 in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers outfielders Matt Vierling, Riley Greene and Wenceel Pérez celebrate after their win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2024 in Detroit.

OF Matt Vierling — 100-to-1

His case looked better a week ago, before a 2-for-19 mini-slump dropped him behind Riley Greene on the Tigers’ OPS leader board. Still, his 1.1 fWAR ranks 13th among AL outfielders — that’s not quite All-Star-worthy, but it’s better than Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez (1.0), Toronto’s George Springer (0.3) and Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena (-0.1). (It’s also worse than ex-Tiger Willi Castro, who’s eighth at 1.7 fWAR for Minnesota; go figure.)

OF Riley Greene — 100-to-1

Greene’s good weekend against the Brewers — 4-for-7 with a pair of doubles — raised his OPS to .793, eighth among AL OFs on the ballot. Of course, the No. 7 outfielder entering Monday was Boston’s Wilyer Abreu at .829, so there’s a bit of a gap between Greene and the top tier.

RHP Jason Foley — 50-to-1

Foley is tied for fourth in the AL in saves (12), and yes, we know, saves are an overrated statistic (behind only wins). That’s a big reason why it’s increasingly difficult for relievers to make the Midsummer Classic roster — five of the 17 AL All-Star pitchers last season were relievers, and even that’s a bit inflated, as the Angels’ Carlos Estévez only made the squad as a replacement for Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase. Still, Foley isn’t that far off the AL’s top closers — Clase, New York’s Clay Holmes and Oakland’s Mason Miller — in converting 86% of his save opportunities while ranking eighth in average leverage (2.038, with league-average pressure equaling 1). Foley’s 3.04 ERA in 23⅔ innings isn’t bad, but his low strikeout total — just 18 — likely means he’ll have the All-Star break off.

Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty throws during the first inning against the Rangers on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in Arlington, Texas.
Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty throws during the first inning against the Rangers on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in Arlington, Texas.

RHP Jack Flaherty — 10-to-1

Another Tiger dealing with injuries, as Flaherty was bumped from Tuesday’s scheduled start with a back issue. He’s expected to start against the Astros this weekend in Houston, which should help his All-Star candidacy. Even with the missed start, Flaherty is fourth in the AL in strikeouts (94, behind Chicago’s Garrett Crochet’s 103, K.C.’s Cole Ragans’ 98 and Skubal’s 96), walks per nine innings (1.239, behind Seattle George Kirby’s 0.859), second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.4, behind Kirby’s 10.571) and fifth in WHIP (0.963). Add it all up, and Flaherty checks in as the AL’s fifth-best starting pitcher by fWAR (1.9), behind Crochet (2.3), Ragans (2.6), Skubal (2.7) and Boston’s Tanner Houck (2.9).

LHP Tarik Skubal — Well, you know

Again, the Tigers’ ace doesn’t have much more to prove, as he picked up his eighth win of the season (tied for second in the AL) Sunday in almost ho-hum fashion. Strikeouts? He had 10 to pass Flaherty on the leaderboard. Baserunners? Just five hits and two walks allowed, moving his league-leading WHIP up slightly to a still-microscopic 0.891. He allowed one run to drop his ERA to 1.92, good for second behind Houck’s 1.91. And as you might guess, both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Reference’s WAR calculators love him: Skubal checks in second at 2.7 fWAR and first at 3.5 bWAR.

TRENDING: Former MLB pitcher Dan Petry breaks down Detroit Tigers rotation, including Tarik Skubal

And there you have it: Flaherty should be joining Skubal in Arlington next month. Unless his arm falls off, too, we guess.

A whirl through the rotation

Former Detroit Tigers player Dan Petry, center, speaks at a panel discussion during The Roar of '84 world premiere at Beacon Park in Detroit, Thursday, April 11, 2019. Next to him is teammate Dave Rozema and Kirk Gibson.
Former Detroit Tigers player Dan Petry, center, speaks at a panel discussion during The Roar of '84 world premiere at Beacon Park in Detroit, Thursday, April 11, 2019. Next to him is teammate Dave Rozema and Kirk Gibson.

So what’s Skubal’s secret? Well, it’s not really a secret, as former Tigers pitcher Dan Petry pointed out on the Freep’s “Days of Roar” podcast with Evan Petzold. “It's that fastball-changeup combination that is just unhittable the way he pairs each of those two fastballs, the four-seam and the sinker.” Skubal wasn’t the only Tigers starter drawing kudos, with Petry calling Flaherty “one of those best-kept secrets” and Reese Olson “under the radar.”

Keeping the faith

Zach McKinstry of the Detroit Tigers hugs Andy Ibanez after a 10-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2024 in Detroit.
Zach McKinstry of the Detroit Tigers hugs Andy Ibanez after a 10-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2024 in Detroit.

What about the guy finishing games on the mound lately for the Tigers? No, not Jason Foley. We’re talking Zach McKinstry, the Central Michigan alumnus who took some time off from his regular job as a utility player this week to close out a pair of blowouts. His time has a Tiger hasn’t been the smoothest — even after his home run in Texas on Tuesday, McKinstry is slashing just .198/.264/.292 this season. But, as he told the Freep’s Jeff Seidel, he has found peace with his inconsistent bat and more inconsistent playing time: “You gotta give it to God. Just be at peace. Be free.”

Tork watch

Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson looks on from the dugout after the 6-2 win on Friday, May 24, 2024, at Comerica Park.
Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson looks on from the dugout after the 6-2 win on Friday, May 24, 2024, at Comerica Park.

At least McKinstry has held onto his big-league spot, unlike first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who was sent down to Triple-A last Monday. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick — who crushed 31 homers last season — was hitting .201 with four homers when he was sent down. His bat has looked much better with the Mud Hens, though; Torkelson has slashed .333/.429/.583 with a home run, three doubles, four walks and five strikeouts in six games. Tork has at least one big-league believer, however: his pal Riley Greene, who was confident in telling Our Man Petzold, “He’s going to be back.

J-Hen’s time

Left fielder Justyn-Henry Malloy of the Detroit Tigers reaches out to snag a fly ball hit by Brice Turang of the Milwaukee Brewers during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on June 8, 2024 in Detroit.
Left fielder Justyn-Henry Malloy of the Detroit Tigers reaches out to snag a fly ball hit by Brice Turang of the Milwaukee Brewers during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on June 8, 2024 in Detroit.

The biggest beneficiary of Tork’s demotion? Justyn-Henry Malloy, who was called up last Monday. The 24-year-old picked up his first big-league hit — and his first big-league home run — in his ninth time at the plate, in front of his parents in Arlington, Texas. Malloy’s patience, at the plate and in the minors, is showing already, according to Our Man Petzold, who noted that no player in the minors saw more pitches over the past two seasons, with Malloy blasting past the No. 2 hitter by more than 200 pitches.

3 to watch

Reese Olson of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday, June 7, 2024.
Reese Olson of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday, June 7, 2024.

Malloy isn’t the only young Tiger to keep an eye on this week:

MIGUEL DIAZ:The right-handed reliever signed a minor-league deal, his third with the Tigers in three seasons.

COLT KEITH:The rookie second baseman is recovering from a nasty collision in right field with Akil Baddoo.

REESE OLSON:After giving up 12 earned runs in his first 10 starts combined this season, the second-year righty has been torched for 13 earned runs in two starts.

Happy birthday, Tyler Holton!

Detroit Tigers pitcher Tyler Holton pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Fenway Park in Boston on Sunday, June 2, 2024.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Tyler Holton pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning at Fenway Park in Boston on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

Tyler Holton, the Tigers’ most effective lefty reliever this season, turns 28 on Thursday. (That’s one day before his alma mater, Florida State, returns to the College World Series for the first time since 2019.) Since getting battered by the Royals and Cardinals at the end of April, Holton has turned it around, with 15 strikeouts and just three walks in 19 1/3 innings, dropping his ERA from 5.40 to 4.13.

Other Tigers birthdays this week: Al Alburquerque (38 on Monday), Avisail Garcia (33 on Wednesday), James McCann (34 on Thursday), Drew Smyly (35 on Thursday), Mike Fiers (39 on Saturday), Tony Clark (52 on Saturday), Lance Parrish (68 on Saturday) and Ron LeFlore (76 on Sunday).

Mark your calendar!

Hall of Fame inductee selection Jim Leyland interviews with the media during the MLB Winter Meetings, Dec. 4, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hall of Fame inductee selection Jim Leyland interviews with the media during the MLB Winter Meetings, Dec. 4, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

We already knew Aug. 3 was going to be a party for former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, what with the “Leyland Starter Pack” giveaway — featuring a Tigers hat, sunglasses and mustache (Pack of Marlboros not included) — scheduled before the season began. And last week, the Tigers leaned into it, announcing the retirement of Leyland’s No. 10, with a pregame ceremony set for that day. So how does Leyland feel about it? "This is absolutely unbelievable," he told Our Man Petzold about the honor from the franchise he worked nearly four decades for.

TL;DR

Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty pitches in the first inning against the Blue Jays on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Comerica Park.
Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty pitches in the first inning against the Blue Jays on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Comerica Park.

If the Tigers do land Flaherty and Skubal on the AL squad, it’ll be just the fifth time in the past 60 seasons the franchise has had two starting pitchers in the Midsummer Classic. The others: 1969 (Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain), 1985 (Jack Morris and Dan Petry), 2009 (Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander) and 2013 (Verlander and Max Scherzer).

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on X (which used to be Twitter, y’know?) @theford.

Next up: Nationals

Matchup: Tigers (32-33) vs. Washington (30-35), series opener.

First pitch: 6:40 p.m. Tuesday; Comerica Park, Detroit.

TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).

Probable pitchers: Tigers — RHP Kenta Maeda (2-2, 6.25 ERA); Nationals — LHP Mitchell Parker (4-3, 3.47).

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Breaking down the AL All-Star candidates

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