Joey Votto Compares Paul Skenes' Debut to Facing Stephen Strasburg

Rookie pitcher Paul Skenes makes his mark in MLB.

by Abdullah Magsi
Joey Votto Compares Paul Skenes' Debut to Facing Stephen Strasburg
© Justin Berl/Getty Images

In an electrifying major league debut, Paul Skenes took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday, facing off against their division rivals, the Chicago Cubs, at PNC Park. The highly-anticipated game saw Skenes pitch four robust innings during which he threw 84 pitches, allowing three runs and striking out seven batters.

His performance helped the Pirates edge out a narrow 10-9 victory over the Cubs. Reflecting on Skenes’ debut, former Cincinnati Reds standout Joey Votto noted striking similarities between the rookie and baseball legend Stephen Strasburg.

Votto reminisced about his own experience facing Strasburg after his call-up, recalling the overwhelming speed and quality of Strasburg's pitches. "Watching Skenes was like a flashback to that moment. The fastball was on point, and then came that curveball, followed by a changeup that left you second-guessing," Votto said.

He emphasized how Skenes’ debut mirrored the excitement and prowess of Strasburg’s unforgettable first game. Both Skenes and Strasburg were top draft picks, with Skenes being selected first overall by the Pirates in 2023, and Strasburg taking the top spot with the Nationals in 2009.

Known for their powerful fastballs, Strasburg's pitches typically ranged from 96-99 mph, sometimes hitting 102 mph, while Skenes has shown he can consistently pitch at 98 mph and even reached 100 mph during the game.

Skenes' Historic MLB Debut

The debut was not only a display of Skenes' potential but also a significant historical moment for the Pirates.

Skenes became the first pitcher aged 21 or younger since 1907 to strike out seven batters in his MLB debut for the team. His fastest pitch clocked in at 101.9 mph, the fastest recorded by a Pirates pitcher since 2008. Before joining the major leagues, Skenes had an impressive career at LSU, where he helped secure the 2023 Men’s College World Series title.

His pre-MLB stats include a stellar 0.99 ERA with 47 strikeouts over just 27 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. After the game, Skenes described his debut as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience," expressing gratitude for the opportunity and satisfaction with the team's performance.

"From the first pitch to the last, it was just an awesome experience, and I’m thrilled we came away with a win," he shared in an on-field interview with Sportsnet Pittsburgh. The Pirates and their fans have high hopes that Skenes will continue to develop and perhaps even replicate some of Strasburg's successes, including his 2019 World Series MVP title and multiple All-Star appearances.

As Skenes' career progresses, comparisons with legends like Strasburg might become more frequent, marking him as a player to watch in the coming seasons.