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Absolute Skenes

Paul Skenes gives the thumbs-up.
Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Rocket-armed Pirates rookie pitcher Paul Skenes made his first major-league start Saturday, against the Cubs, in Pittsburgh. It was fine. Skenes struck out seven Cubs in four innings, which is neat, but he also walked two, hit a guy, and allowed six hits, including a double and a sockdolager, and the visitors pushed across three runs before Skenes was pulled on 84 pitches. There was plenty to like—Skenes threw a whopping 17 100-mph pitches—but it was not the big Stephen Strasburg-esque dominating performance fans might've wanted. It was fine. The Pirates later tried to lose the game but could not, although Skenes did not collect the win.

Skenes took the mound again Friday afternoon for his second start, also against the Cubs, this time on the road. This time the big righty was out for blood, and mowed through Chicago's lineup with jaw-dropping stuff. Each of the first seven Cubs hitters to come to the plate went down on strikes. Skenes did not allow a base runner until the fifth inning; when he was pulled after the sixth inning, the Cubs still had not registered a single hit, and he'd struck out 11. Baseball knowers were telling the truth: This guy can huck the absolute bejeezus out of that dang baseball.

I would like to draw your attention to the 101-mph fastball that Skenes used to freeze Cubs utility guy Miles Mastrobuoni at the end of the second inning. The pitch ran back over the inside corner after coming out of Skenes's hand like a sniper round aimed at Mastrobuoni's tibia. Pitching watcher Rob Friedman says this missile of a fastball had an insane 17 inches of arm-side movement. I feel that now is an appropriate time to note that last week Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported, among a slew of floated suggestions for preserving the arms of starting pitchers, a proposed prohibition on pitches faster than 94 mph. The idea is that max-effort pitches are bad for a pitcher's ligaments, and that a speed cutoff would force pitchers to take it easy.

I bring this up to point out that the idea of making certain pitches illegal has already been broached, and by people who in general are pretty serious about this baseball business. And so you will know that I am not being very ridiculous when I say that this exact pitch, the one thrown by Skenes to Mastrobuoni, should be illegal, not just by the rules of baseball but by international law. If Skenes threw that pitch while I was standing in the batter's box, my ghost would shoot up out of my collapsing body and go screaming into the afterlife. That is a terrible thing to do to your fellow man.

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