Matthew Boyd, strikeout artist.
It has a nice ring to it, right? The Tigers probably thought so after Boyd’s 2019 debut, in which he struck out 10 Toronto Blue Jays hitters in just five innings of work. His command was sharp — he only walked one of the 21 batters he faced — and he generated 15 swings and misses, or 17.7 percent of the pitches he threw on the day. While he ultimately gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits, some of that can be blamed on shoddy defense and one bad inning.
Those types of innings have plagued Boyd throughout his career, but if any semblance of the swing-and-miss stuff sticks around, he may avoid the blow-ups a little more often in 2019. Boyd induced whiffs on 10.2 percent of the pitches he threw last year, the highest rate of his career. He has been roughly league average on this front throughout his career, but currently leads baseball in strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio (yay small samples!)
The key seems to be his slider. He threw it more often than ever in his season debut — 26 of his 85 pitches, an increase of seven percentage points compared to last year. He also threw it slower than ever, averaging just 78.4 miles per hour. This extra velocity separation between the slider and his fastball (91.1 miles per hour), as well as a bit more movement on the slider could be why Boyd looked so electric in last week’s debut.
Detroit Tigers (3-3) at New York Yankees (2-3)
Time/Place: 4:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium
SB Nation site: Pinstripe Alley
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 5.11 ERA in 2018)
Game 14 Pitching Matchup
The Yankees were originally slated to start lefthander James Paxton in the series finale, but will instead turn to young righthander Jonathan Loaisiga, currently the top prospect in their recently depleted farm system. Loaisiga threw a handful of innings for the Yanks last year, but just barely maintains his rookie eligibility as he makes his 2019 debut. While he made four starts for them in 2018, his outings were mostly limited — he only topped five innings on two occasions.
But enough from me; let’s hear from those who really know what Loaisiga brings to the table. First, Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues.
Loaisiga is listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 lbs. — minor league height and weight measurements are wrong all the time, though this one seems pretty accurate — and he works with a fastball that sits anywhere from 91-97 mph with some run back in on righties. His hard low-80s curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch, and Loaisiga has a quality changeup as well.
And our friend John Sickels, formerly of Minor League Ball.
Loaisiga isn’t a big guy at 5-11, 165, but he has no shortage of arm strength, working with a fastball that can hit 98 and a plus breaking ball. His change-up isn’t quite as consistent as the curve but he projects as a starter. Although he walked four in his MLB debut his command and control where one of his best attributes in the minors and this will likely be true in the majors as well once he gets a bit more experience.
Key matchup: Matthew Boyd vs. the short porch in right field
Hey, it worked on Tuesday, right? Like Jordan Zimmermann, Boyd has struggled with the home run ball in recent years. He cut his home run rate to a palatable 1.20 per nine innings in 2017, but saw that rise back to 1.43 homers per nine in 2018. He came away a winner in his only previous start at Yankee Stadium — a wild 11-7 affair in September 2018 — but still gave up a pair of home runs. Solo shots aren’t the end of the world for Boyd, who relies on generating a lot of fly balls to get outs, but giving them up in bunches (or with runners on base) won’t end well.
The Tigers offense goes cold again and the Yankees take the series.