Detroit Tigers: Three Things We Have Learned About Matt Boyd


Anyone who has ever played baseball knows that it is not fair to judge a player or a team based on just two games. It is also unfair to pass judgement on a starting pitcher after two outings.

But as sports writers, we draw early conclusions from time to time, and there are three obvious ones Detroit Tigers fans can conclude on left-handed starter Matt Boyd.

The 24-year-old has shown some real promise in just two starts with the Tigers, but there are three big things he needs to work on in order to reach the next level.

To start, Boyd has a serious case of first inning jitters. In four outings this season, Boyd has allowed 15 runs; 10 of them have come in the first inning.

Now that’s somewhat skewed because the left-hander allowed seven runs in a start with the Toronto Blue Jays on July 2 where he didn’t record an out against the Boston Red Sox. But Boyd struggled again in the first against the Kansas City Royals on Monday. He only allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, and all the runs came in the first.

The good news is Boyd was able to settle in and keep the Tigers in the ball game. If not for another lackluster offensive game for Detroit on Monday, Boyd could have at least left with a no-decision.

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Settling in after a tough first frame is pretty common for the 24-year-old this year. Opponents are hitting .290 against Boyd after he throws his 25th pitch of his outing. Before the 25th pitch, however, opposing batters are hitting .591 versus the lefty.

Another thing Tigers fans have learned about Boyd is opponents are taking advantage of his first pitch. In 0-0 counts, hitters are 6-for-12 against the southpaw on balls put into play.

It’s hard to explain exactly why Boyd has trouble with the first inning and the first pitch of at-bats, but perhaps solving one would help fix the other problem. Maybe it is as simple as focusing on hitting the corners on the first pitch rather than throwing a “get-me-over” fastball.

If opponents do their scouting, hitters might become very aggressive on the first pitch against Boyd, knowing he hasn’t had much success in 0-0 counts.  Boyd should use that to his advantage. Skip a curveball or two in the dirt on a first pitch to see if the hitter will bite. That, along with a little more urgency to start the game, could help Boyd solve his first-inning blues too.

The third initial thing the Tigers have learned about Boyd in his first two appearances with Detroit is he is a big fly-ball pitcher. Boyd has faced 51 hitters with the Tigers, and 31 of them have hit a fly ball.

In today’s era of baseball, teams usually prefer ground ball pitchers because those guys will never have problems with yielding home runs. Ground ball pitchers also generate more double plays.

That doesn’t appear to be how Boyd records his outs. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly because Comerica Park has a very spacious outfield. But on the road, it wouldn’t be a shocking if Boyd allows a few more home runs in stadiums such as U.S. Cellular Field, Yankees Stadium, Camden Yards and Rogers Centre. Those are all hitters parks, and the fact three of those stadiums are in the AL East should tell fans why he wasn’t a good fit in Toronto.

Next: Tigers Avoid Sweep in Kansas City, Comeback to Beat Royals, 7-4