Detroit Tigers: Evaluating Matthew Boyd's 2023 performance

Matthew Boyd's been fine, even if the Detroit Tigers lefty's numbers are not super appealing.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd delivers a pitch during a 2023 contest.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd delivers a pitch during a 2023 contest. / Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd is doing just fine.

The Detroit Tigers reunited with an old friend in, Matthew Boyd, this off-season. An old friend of both the organization and Tigers President of Baseball Ops, Scott Harris, who was able to bring him into the Giants organization when he was still out west.

In 2023, the hope was that Detroit Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd would be able to get back to the level of performance that he had shown in prior years. Boyd has done an excellent job re-acclimating, even if his numbers are not incredible.

After all, Boyd was returning from flexor tendon surgery last season, so his 2022 campaign was all but scrapped. It's the same surgery that Tarik Skubal had to undergo, so fans understand that his return to the mound took some time.

Boyd got back to 100% last summer and was on the mound during his time with the Seattle Mariners organization, but he went on to pitch in just ten games, totaling only 13.2 innings of work. It was a treat for Boyd, pitching for his hometown team and making a postseason run with them.

But, this off-season, he returned "home" to Detroit to rejoin the organization that he has spent eight seasons with (including this year) after being acquired in 2015. The southpaw was the Tigers' ace at one point, and now, they are simply looking for him to eat innings up and snowball competitive starts.

The good news is Boyd has been pretty solid. Despite a 5.60 ERA over his first 13 starts, Boyd's stuff has been working well for him amid his return to the mound in a Tigers uniform. Over 64.2 innings of work, Boyd has 25 walks and 64 punchouts, pitching to a 1.35 WHIP.

While there is room for improvement and room for him to see those stats move in a better direction, he has done an excellent job controlling his "stuff" and being someone who has been able to pitch effectively in terms of executing his pitches.

What I mean is there are times he's going to get hit. He's not a Cy Young award winner or the frontline MLB ace, so, he may get beat by hitters, and some of the metrics indicate that he has done a good job making his pitches and looking to execute the right results. Let's dive a little further into this...

According to Baseball Savant's metrics, his four-seam fastball and sinker have both averaged above 2,400 RPMs, with the four-seamer being at 2,500 RPMs on the dot for the average. This is the highest it's ever been in his career. Continuing, the curveball averages 2,571 RPMs, and the slider averages 2,434 RPMs. These are both higher than in recent years by a hair.

But, spin rate alone is not the tell-all, but it was something that certainly stands out. His fastball and sinker whiff rates are both up nearly 10% from prior seasons, and not just 2022, with the small sample size it had.

While the breaking ball whiff rate has always been inconsistent, he has continued to show it as part of the arsenal to attack hitters. However, on the other hand, the changeup has done two things: increased his ability to kill spin on the pitch, saw a decrease in average RPMs, and has a whiff rate of 40.4% in 2023.

His movement profiles have stayed around the same range, but the bump in spin seemingly allows him to sequence pitchers better. Frankly, the only pitch opposing hitters seem to be jumping on like it's a beach ball is his curveball.

Boyd's relying on the heater, the slider, and the changeup for the majority of his attack but has mixed in the curveball, and it has gotten hit. The thing that sticks out is that he's been able to use the fastball as a putaway option, setting himself up to let the pitch play up and use some carry to make it deceptive to hitters.

It's not that he has some "F-U" fastball or even absurd carry numbers, but with the uptick in spin and seemingly some grip changes (speculation on my part), he's been able to make some minor changes that have helped him attack hitters better.

Now, at the end of the day, the ERA is not great, and the WHIP of 1.35 is not my favorite either, but Boyd has been doing what the Tigers need. It's not that he's pitching himself into being a trade chip or anything, but he's been just fine.

The Tigers should be happy with how he has performed for them in 2023.

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