Matt Joyce has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers this season. I think they knew he had a shot at being a decent player but I don’t think the club thought he’d be this big of a contributor this season. For the most part, the reception of Joyce by the fan base has been positive. However, I think some people (myself even from time to time) have thought the he has a lot of trouble with the breaking balls and strikes out a bit too often. It’s tough to keep in mind that the guy is a rookie and is only 23 years old.
After last night’s game, when he hit two more homers, I got to thinking about how impressive his rookie season really has been. Before this season he never had at bat in the Major’s, he’s just kind of burst onto the scene and played really well. How good has his rookie season been? The last homegrown Tiger hitter to really come in and play well like this was Curtis Granderson. Both players made their big league debut’s at the age of 23 and both have show above average defense in the outfield.
When Granderson arrived with the Tigers he was almost universally praised. People were gushing about the guy, and they should have. However, looking at their numbers, Joyce may be off to a better start that Granderson. Let’s take a look.
Granderson debuted with the Tigers in 2004 when he was 23 years old. However, he got only 25 at bats at the end of the season. For the sake of sample sizes and all of that jazz, I’m going to compare Granderson’s 2005 season (when he was 23 and turned 24 in September) to the season that Joyce is currently enjoying, (he turned 24 in August). Here’s a look at how their numbers compare in their respective seasons:
Kind of surprising, huh? These guys were roughly at the same point in their careers and Joyce’s numbers have been absolutely terrific. Granted, Joyce has hit in a much better lineup than Granderson did in 2005, but still, it’s impressive.
This makes it all the more puzzling that Leyland has said openly that Joyce is by no means a lock to be a regular next season. I hope he’s just saying that to keep the guy motivated, but there is no reason that Joyce should be blocked by the likes of Gary Sheffield or Jacque Jones next season, there’s just no excuse for that. He’s a very talented player who has time on his side.