Detroit Tigers: Matt Boyd’s strong 2017 finish a good sign

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 17: Matthew Boyd (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 17: Matthew Boyd (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Going into the 2018 season, the Detroit Tigers have questions regarding their starting rotation. If Matt Boyd pitches the way he did last September, he can be part of the solution.

In the summer of 2015, the Detroit Tigers acquired a trio of left-handed pitchers from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for David Price. One of those lefties was Matt Boyd.

Since coming over to the Detroit Tigers, Boyd has been given quite a few chances to show that he belongs in the starting rotation. So far, the results have been fairly mixed.

In August of 2015, Boyd won his very first start with the Tigers. He pitched seven solid innings against the Kansas City Royals, allowing just one earned-run. The rest of the season did not go very well, however. Boyd ended the 2015 season with a combined record of 1-6 with a 7.53 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP in 13 games (12 starts) with the Tigers and Blue Jays.

The next season, Boyd went 6-5 with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 20 games (18 starts) for the Detroit Tigers. While his ERA was a bit high, he looked as though he might be ready to settle in at the back of the Tigers’ rotation.

In Spring Training of 2017, Boyd won the final spot in the Tigers’ rotation over Anibal Sanchez. However, a large part of the 2017 campaign ended up being a struggle for Boyd. In early June, he was demoted to Triple-A Toledo. After the All-Star break, Boyd rejoined the starting rotation. Things still weren’t really clicking, though.

At the end of August, he had gone only 5-8 with a whopping 6.13 ERA. Suddenly, the lights came on in September. Over six starts during the final month of the season, Boyd posted a 2.95 ERA. In one of those starts, he came without one out of pitching a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.

Rotation questions for 2018

Prior to Boyd’s excellent month of September, Evan Woodbery of MLive reported that the lefty was working on simplifying his delivery. If those mechanical changes were the reason for his success, and they can yield similar results next season, it would be a big help for the Tigers.

Of course, it probably would not be enough to launch the rebuilding Detroit Tigers into contention next season, but Boyd could help ease some of the concerns about the starting rotation.

Ace Michael Fulmer, who will be returning from elbow surgery, has the stuff and ability to lead the staff, assuming he comes back healthy. However, many questions still exist in the Tigers’ starting rotation.

Daniel Norris, another one of the lefties which were acquired with Boyd in the David Price trade, pitched well for the Tigers in 2015 and 2016 but struggled to the tune of a 5.31 ERA through 101.2 innings last season.

Jordan Zimmermann has battled a couple of injuries and underperformed since signing a five-year, $110 million deal. The Tigers will need to find a fifth arm to plug into their rotation for next season as well.

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Boyd has pitched exceptionally well throughout his minor league career, posting a 2.49 ERA through 387 innings. Perhaps last September was a sign that he is ready to translate some of that success to the big leagues. In any case, the way he wrapped up his 2017 campaign was clearly an encouraging sign for the Detroit Tigers.