Quite a few ball players will tell you they are grateful for everything they have. You get to play a boys game, as a man. They will also tell you that they thank their coaching staff, teammate support, and family. These can all be true, to be sure but Joe Boyle reminds each of us that nothing is given in life, err... baseball. You have to earn a chance to be part of a Major League roster. You have to grind through High School, College, Minors and then maybe, just maybe you get a phone call. All the while, staying healthy.
His location problems were the stuff of legend or to be more accurate, of cinema. He could touch 100mph. Throw a 94 mph cutter and yes, even throws The Duce. But like anyone who has gotten advise from their dad at baseball, "nobody cares how hard you throw ball four". Joe Boyle took time to learn this.
In his first full two seasons in the minors, 48 games, 218 innings he walked a total of 177 batters. Yes, 1 1 7 free passes. The good news? He struck out 321. Sounds good you say? Eh, not really his whip for '23 MiLB season was touching 1.50. Crazy right, but it is even nuttier that his AVG-A was .173. Huh? But they did not need to hit the ball if he was going to give you a free ticket to first base.
In the month of May alone he fanned 28 and walked 27. Baseball is a game of near symmetry. Come August however, in a mere 17.1 innings, he K'd 28, walking only 7. He was well on his way to finding his proper release point. He stopped overthrowing every pitch, as young arms tend to do, and learned to ease the ball to the plate. Striking out 12 on August 11th.
But then came Sept.10th. One his worst games of the prior months. How bad you ask? 5 walks 4 Strikeouts and a mere .151 Avg-A. In fact, of three starts in August the Avg-A against was over .200. But that was because he was throwing strikes. You will have a low Avg-A if the ball is 6 inches off the plate. One of the truest statements about baseball is that stats tell the story but not the moral of it. August 18th was the last time his AVG-A was higher than .200. And he was still throwing strikes. Progress.
Come September 17th, coaches and front office had seen enough and brewed him a cup of coffee in the Athletics' clubhouse.
Joe Boyle stands 6'7 inches, 240lbs. Randy Johnson stands 6'10, just for reference. But Johnson threw sidearm. Not over the top the way Boyle does. That means the ball is being released at a very unusual height. The average height of MLB pitchers is 6'2. Hitters will adjust you say. I would tend to agree if all 4 of his pitches didn't come out of nearly the exact same release point. A curveball has to come out of a lower release point to get proper turn over, but not so the cutter. Which he used to strikeout looking Tatis Jr. A well earned first strikeout of his career.
But now that we can see where we came from, let us look at where we are. September 23rd. Boyle took the ball at 1:07pm, as the "starting pitcher" said manager Mark Kotsay.
2 out of his first 3 outs were deep fly balls. Not what you would like from a pitcher who has to drive the ball down from someone his height to hit the strike zone.
But I digress; his first two innings. 2 hits and an odd slider. Coming from such a high release point it almost looks like a curveball. The 2nd inning he got two strikeouts, 1 fastball and one slurve. At least that is what I will call it. Consistently touching 98mph on the fastball he earned both strike outs; swinging. 35 pitches.
Top 3rd, picking up right where we left off. Another slurve K. Again, swinging. But another hit. 3 innings, 3 hits. What does this tell you? He is throwing strikes. He is throwing where batters can hit it. Still only 1 ground ball out but who cares when you throw 97mph fastball on the outer third. Swinging K number 4. Consistent whiff's from Tiger hitters.
The first run to score was not his reasonability, E5 charged to Jordan Diaz. No concerns there because Estuary Ruiz hit his 5th homerun at 110mph off the bat. 2-1 Oakland.
Top frame of the 4th, Boyle was 51 pitches in, 37 for strikes. A lot of foul balls. Hitters were clearly trying to get under his fastball and drive it but hard to do that when you are used to that pitch coming 3-4 inches lower than usual. The strike zone is relative to each batter but not to each pitcher. Why? Because each pitcher has to release the ball at a different point for each pitch, much like a fingerprint. 20 pitches in the 4th, no runs.
Into the 5th frame of Bolye's outing, he gives up his 4th hit but he gets his first baserunner with a clean pick off move of Zach McKinstry quickly followed by his 5th strikeout. Another swinging strikeout. Are we seeing a tend here? I think so. He has little to no run on his fastball but a hitter has .40 seconds to decide to swing, of which the last 1/3rd of the way to the plate the hitter is more or less swinging blind. It is hard to see Boyle but easy to see why it is so hard. His pitching motion is very compact for the 6'7 24 year old. He squeezes his body together tight at the kick and the throwing arm comes 10 degrees plus to the release, hiding the ball behind his head. His average release height is 6'4. The average release height in 2021 was 5'9.
Bounding out of the dugout for the 6th inning and his 83rd pitch, he gives up another hit because he is still throwing strikes. Exactly what you want to see. 'Here is the pitch, hit it if you can', hence all the swinging strikeouts. 11 pitches later; end of inning, end of day.
Danny Jimenez walked the bases loaded and with two outs Trevor May came on in the top of the 8th to strike out Parker Meadows. Oakland tacked on two more run in the bottom of the 8th but Detroit loaded the bases again, with 1 out in the top of the 9th on an error by Nick Allen and a base hit. Trevor May outsmarted the next two batters, getting back to back swinging strikeouts on fastballs out of the zone. Save #20 for May and birthday number 34.
In Boyles fist two Major League starts ; 9 innings, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 ERs, 1 win. Joe Boyle has one more start in Major League Baseball, scheduled for September 30th against Los Angles Angels. He has earned another start and is starting to earn himself a possible place in the rotation of the 2024 Oakland Athletics.
New and Notes
Lawrence Butler saw a grand total of 6 pitches, 2 out of his first 2 at-bats. His Batting Average is .216 and has not hit a homerun since August 15th. Butler is showing his stripes, quickly. Hard pull, hard drive and impatient. His spray chart will show several hits going the other way but his K rate and his low walk rate is a pretty big telltale signal of a hitter looking to give the ball a ride at each at bat. Butler does not need to go back to the minors but certainly needs to sit and build his swing.
Luis Erceg has allowed only 1 ER since August 28th.
Brent Rooker decided to have a monolog from the dugout with the umpire after striking out looking. Rare from Rooker.
Zach Gelof continued his 8 game hit streak by sneaking a ground ball past the Tiger ShortStop on a drawn in in by about 1 inch. Sometimes the ball grows eyes, as they say.
Esteury Ruiz has 12 hits through his last 42 at bats, good for .285. He must replace either Kemp or Brown in the lineup, permanently, next year. Butler will most not be likely taken out of the lineup unless Darell Hernaiz becomes another Oakland infielder converted to outfield and Nick Allen sent to AAA.