Matt Boyd is off the best start of his major league career in 2018 and there are many factors involved in his early success. Boyd has sacrificed some velocity this year to become a more complete pitcher. His ability to locate and mix speeds has been at the forefront of his early season prosperity.
Last year, Boyd’s fastball reached 96 mph. His record was a pedestrian 6-11 and his ERA was a lofty 5.27. This year he has pitched more in the 91-92 range while moving the ball in and out and up and down. It has become more about upsetting timing than blowing hitters away.
Beginning in spring training this year, Boyd began experimenting with a hesitation in his delivery. It was most noticeable in his last start in Seattle. He won’t do it very often, but enough to throw a hitter’s timing off in a key spot in the game.
New pitching coach Chris Bosio convinced Boyd to incorporate the hesitation in the off season. So, as spring approached, Boyd began working on his new weapon.
“It’s something we talked about in the offseason, Boyd said.” “I worked on it this spring and it’s something to mess with the hitters timing. I used it in my last start (Seattle) against Dee Gordon. I had thrown three breaking balls down and away and he fouled them all off. It was an 0-2 count so I figured I would take a shot and it worked out.”
Boyd struck out Gordon using the hesitation delivery in the at bat.
Bosio’s prodding to utilize the hesitation has also led to Boyd using the weapon as a drill to keep his delivery on the straight and narrow. “I do it all the time when I warm up, he said.” “It’s more of a drill to keep me from leaking forward on the mound and creating drag on my arm. That’s when pitches don’t do what you want them to do”
The only drag these days in Boyd’s game is the the feeling an opposing hitter feels when he walks back to the bench after a comfortable 0-4.
Boyd’s transformation from power to crafty had produced huge results. He has been lethal against left-handed batters this season. Lefties have an on base percentage against Boyd of only .196. The league average is .307. Lefties are hitting .147 against Boyd this season.
Bosio’s influence goes beyond the hesitation drill. He has had a profound impact on the tempo Boyd is pitching with this season. Boyd has shaved nearly four seconds off his time between pitches. The result of the increased tempo is quicker innings and crisper outings.
Bosio’s influence can not be overstated, but Boyd’s willingness to buy into the changes can not be either. He has rounded into one of the better pitchers in the American League. Boyd’s 3.19 ERA is best among Tigers starters and 14th in the American League. Opponents are hitting just .188 against his slider this year, the staple of his arsenal.
We can say without ‘hesitation’ that Boyd’s start is no fluke. His breakout season is in full bloom.