Paul Skenes Unveils "Splinker," a Game-Changing Hybrid Pitch in MLB Debut

Paul Skenes' Pitching Debut Captivates Major League Baseball

by Abdullah Magsi
Paul Skenes Unveils "Splinker," a Game-Changing Hybrid Pitch in MLB Debut
© Justin Berl/Getty Images

Last month, while rehabilitating at Triple-A Indianapolis, veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal had the opportunity to witness firsthand the impressive arsenal of Paul Skenes. Already renowned for his powerhouse fastball and devastating slider—pitches that propelled him to stardom during the College World Series with LSU—Skenes had no intention of resting on his laurels.

Instead, the young phenom arrived at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida, eager to showcase his complete range of skills. Among his repertoire, a standout new addition has been the "splinker," a novel hybrid pitch combining elements of a splitter and a sinker.

Grandal, relaying his observations to Pirates manager Derek Shelton, described the pitch as distinctively effective. This assessment proved accurate during Skenes' major league debut against the Cubs, where the splinker was not just a novelty but a weapon.

The pitch was thrown 21 times out of his 84 pitches, leading to five strikeouts from twelve swings, including a crucial fourth-inning strikeout of Yan Gomes.

Skenes' Splinker Stuns MLB

Describing the pitch, Grandal noted, "It was working good.

Definitely diving." This effectiveness is underscored by Skenes' ability to deliver the splinker with an average speed of 94.7 mph, making it one of the fastest of its kind since pitch tracking began in 2008. The splinker not only mirrors the speed of a fastball but also benefits from the dynamic movement of a splitter.

With a vertical drop closely matching that of Zack Wheeler’s esteemed splitter—only faster—it's clear why Skenes’ pitch is unique. "You don’t see anybody throw it at 95, 96," Shelton remarked, emphasizing the rarity of such a pitch.

David Bednar, a two-time All-Star renowned for his own splitter, expressed his admiration postgame. "He’s very special on the mound out there, man," Bednar said. "A lot of stuff he can do with the baseball that’s really impressive." Beyond the physical execution, Skenes' transition from college to the pros has focused on refining his pitch, a testament to his adaptability and determination to enhance his pitching.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington praised Skenes' rapid development, saying, "We thought he'd get better over time, but to do that in a relatively short time is impressive." As Skenes continues to evolve, the splinker stands as a promising sign of his potential to meet, and perhaps even surpass, the considerable expectations placed upon him.