If the Detroit Tigers ultimately beat the odds and make the postseason in 2016, most of the credit will rightfully be given to players like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer and the like. However, one unsung hero that is just as crucial to their hopes is Matt Boyd. The 25-year-old lefthander has already put his stamp on the Tigers’ midseason revival, posting a 2.21 ERA and 27.7 percent strikeout rate in four July starts.
The Tigers went 3-1 in those four games, which included a crucial win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the final series of the first half and a big win over the Minnesota Twins shortly after the All-Star break. Boyd’s last start was a bit more shaky, but still very serviceable against the homer-happy Houston Astros. While he still isn’t eating many innings — Boyd has worked six innings in just two of nine starts this year — he has been the reliable depth piece the Tigers have sorely lacked over the past couple seasons.
A word of caution, though: this probably isn’t sustainable. Boyd struck out 23 of the 83 batters he faced in July, but only managed an 8.5 percent swinging strike rate. He also allowed more hard contact in July than in other months, which was balanced by a sky-high 22.7 percent pop-up rate. His 3.82 FIP and 3.70 xFIP better reflect his true performance over the past month (which included a pair of unearned runs not counted against his ERA). If he can continue to quell the home run issues, the Tigers might have something here.
New York Mets (56-53) at Detroit Tigers (60-49)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Amazin’ Avenue
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Logan Verrett (3-6, 4.20 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (2-2, 4.71 ERA)
When we first looked ahead to this series against the pitching-laden Mets, not many people expected to be facing a replacement level pitcher like Logan Verrett. However, a rash of injuries and Zack Wheeler’s delayed rehab from Tommy John surgery have forced the 26-year-old Verrett into the rotation, and the results are what you might expect. The Mets won Verrett’s first two starts, a pair of games against NL East competition in April, and then he was used out of relief for most of the next couple months. Since then (and including a disastrous spot start against the Colorado Rockies), the Mets have won just one of his last eight starts.
Amazin’ Avenue’s Aaron Yorke went into more detail in our series preview:
Picked by the Mets in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Baylor, Verrett left the organization in 2015 when he was chosen by Baltimore in the Rule 5 Draft. By May of that year, Verrett was back in New York’s organization thanks to the Rule 5 regulations, and he made his Mets debut a month later. Since then, he’s been shifting back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, depending on where the Mets need him. Thanks to the Harvey injury and Zack Wheeler’s delayed return from Tommy John surgery, Verrett has played the role of fifth starter lately. His poor performance leading up to the deadline made it seem like the Mets might want to explore an improvement there, but his past four starts have gone swimmingly enough to inspire confidence. Verrett doesn’t have great strikeout stuff, so he needs to limit walks in order to be successful.
Verrett’s ERA is much higher as a starter, but has largely been the same pitcher in the rotation as in relief. His 4.90 FIP and 4.99 xFIP as a starter are similar to the numbers he has posted in relief, but he has managed a much higher walk rate in his starts thus far. Righties are hitting him better than lefties so far this year, but he managed more traditional platoon splits throughout his time in the minor leagues.
One might expect the Mets’ lefty-heavy lineup to have very poor numbers against left-handed pitching, but they have managed to be a roughly league average unit against both righties and lefties. One reason is their versatility: the Mets have owned the platoon advantage in 64 percent of their plate appearances this season, a rate that leads the National League. Righties like Matt Reynolds, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores have killed lefties in small samples, while switch hitters Asdrubal Cabrera (who is currently on the DL) and Neil Walker have also performed well. Boyd is still having a lot of trouble against right-handed hitters, but should benefit from the rash of injuries to the Mets’ lineup.
Boyd picks up his third win of the year and the Tigers take another series.
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