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Matt Boyd has had one of the best changeups in baseball

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He’s using he pitch more than ever, and the results are lethal for hitters.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

During spring training Matt Boyd was in competition for the fifth starting job against Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey. It was a contest which he eventually won. Now, six weeks into the season, Boyd has the second lowest ERA (3.89) among Tiger starting pitchers after Michael Fulmer’s 2.54.

After a rocky first start in which he gave up five earned runs, Boyd has gone six straight starts giving up three earned runs or fewer — five of which have been quality starts). Last year Boyd split time between Toledo and Detroit, and while he had a great 2.25 ERA in Toledo it did not quite transfer to the majors. He had a 4.53 ERA for the Tigers in 2016. Control has been an issue with 4.4 walks per nine innings, which explains Boyd’s less than stellar 4.30 FIP.

However, there are obvious signs of adjustments from Matt Boyd this year that have helped take him to the next level. The most obvious one is more usage of his secondary pitches.

Boyd’s changeup has been one of the best in baseball so far this year according to FanGraphs’ pitch values.

2017 Changeup values

Pitcher wCH
Pitcher wCH
Jason Vargas 9.2
Dylan Bundy 8.3
Hector Santiago 7.1
Jesse Chavez 5.2
Danny Duffy 5.1
Matt Boyd 4.9
FanGraphs.com

Matt Boyd has thrown his changeup more often than any other pitch so far this year, 25.6 percent of the time, way up from the 15.7 percent from 2016. And hitters are having a difficult time with it, only hitting .154 batting average against with eight strikeouts in 39 at bats (20.5 percent). Boyd had added 1.28 inches of horizontal movement which has allowed him to get more ground balls. Boyd’s groundball rate was at 38.1 percent in 2016 and has jumped to 43.4 percent so far in 2017.

Matt Boyd’s horizontal movement on changeup
Brooks Baseball

In 2016, Boyd’s horizontal movement on his changeup was at 7.89 inches and increased to 9.17 inches in 2017. As a result, hitters are making weaker contact and have a 54.8 percent groundball rate on it, up from 41.8 percent in 2016.

Matt Boyd’s curveball has been a great compliment to his changeup, using it mostly against right-handed hitters to set up his changeup as opposed to an out pitch. Six at bats have ended with his curveball with zero hits, four strikeouts and two flyball outs.

It is still early in the season, and Boyd has only pitched 39 13 innings so far. A lot can change in a few months, but so far Boyd has taken a big step forward in making adjustments to mixing his pitches and it has shown in the results. If he can cut down on the walks, he will take an even bigger step forward.