2021 Detroit Tigers 40-Man Roster Preview: Matthew Boyd

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

One of the more perplexing pitchers in Major League Baseball, Detroit Tigers starter Matthew Boyd gets a fresh start with a new pitching coach

Maybe Detroit Tigers veteran starter Matthew Boyd is who he is; we have collectively been watching and waiting with each passing season for a Matthew Boyd breakout into the ace-like ceiling many have proposed for him. He certainly has some of the ingredients–tall, long, and strong with strike-throwing ability and a slider that generates a multitude of misses from hitters.

Looking toward 2021, Boyd looks to replicate more of his 3.6 bWAR 2019 self as likely one of the more senior members of the rotation which, assuming health, is likely to feature Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning all at some point.

Contract Status

The Detroit Tigers recently avoided arbitration with all of their players for the 2021 season, including Boyd. The Tigers and Boyd agreed on a one-year, $6.5 million contract for next season. Many of the social media reaction was about how this was ‘way too much,’ but keep in mind the arbitration years of team control are much more about the history of what others have received as opposed to performance-based earnings.

Boyd will become a free agent after the 2022 season, assuming the Detroit Tigers do not try to extend him before his team control expires. Of course, there was a time in which many within the industry felt the Detroit Tigers would trade Matthew Boyd, but couple his increased costliness with his inconsistent play and it is difficult to see the Detroit Tigers executing a move anywhere near what they had reported to ask for in past trade discussions.

Matthew Boyd’s Game

Boyd features the conventional four-pitch starter mix: fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. His curveball is the lagging offering of the four; only throwing around six to seven of them per start on average. Boyd has admitted he has gone to his slider too often and feels that has burned him in the past. More recently, he has relied on his changeup as a different look to keep hitter honest against his fastball, which can get up to 95 mph but

averaged just 91.7 in 2020

.

The chief reason Boyd has struggled and why many get confused by his numbers is his command. It is unusual to have such an ability to fill the zone and miss bats yet consistently miss spots within that zone–but that is exactly what Boyd does. Specifically, his fastball is left up too often and he doesn’t bury his slider enough at times; both of which hitters have punished. Despite an XBA of .221 in 2020, hitters slugged .583 off of Boyd’s slider last season; lending to the missed spots theory.

ZiPS Projections

A brief primer on ZiPS: the projection system was developed from Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski and stands for sZymborski Projection Systems. ZiPS takes into account a players’ past four seasons with weights on more recent years to come up with a projection model for the next season. It is not perfect, in fact, it is far from it, but it does lend insight and tempers expectations.

In 2021, ZiPS projects a bounce-back campaign for Boyd: 11-11 record with a 4.55 ERA across 30 starts; 164.1 innings, and 2.7 fWAR accompanying his usual strong strikeout-to-walk numbers.

My Take

Anyone still projecting a breakout, ace-like campaign for Boyd is either ill-informed or holds the senior pastor position in the Church of Chris Fetter. We all certainly want Boyd to do well, but in reality, he is likely a #5 starter on a more competitive team–and there is nothing wrong with that.

Homeruns will continue to haunt Boyd; while Fetter and Boyd seem to be like-minded in their approach to pitching, it is difficult to imagine Fetter finding anything game-changing for a guy already well-versed in earnestness and Driveline. That said–I think Boyd puts up a ZiPS-like season with good, not great, numbers in 2021.