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Tigers vs. Twins Preview: When do we start to trust Matthew Boyd?

Boyd has been Detroit’s best starter this year, but is it for real?

Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

For whatever reason, I still can’t quite bring myself to believe that Matthew Boyd might just be good. The 27-year-old has shown us flashes of his mid-rotation potential in the past, but always followed those up with a dud of a start or two. He was almost like the second coming of Rick Porcello — take out his worst start (or two) and there’s a pretty good pitcher in there. I mean, just look at 2016; were it not for his last start, Boyd would have finished the season with a 4.16 ERA in 97 13 innings.

This year, Boyd’s numbers haven’t needed that asterisk. He has a 3.19 ERA in 48 innings, full stop. His strikeout rate is at a career-best 21.1 percent, his walk rate is also down, and he is keeping hitters in the ballpark. His 3.23 FIP is in the same neighborhood as his ERA, and other metrics indicate that this might not be a fluke.

While I may not yet be convinced, others are. Our old friend Kurt dove into Boyd’s profile at The Athletic, and found a few reasons why Boyd has been so good in 2018.

Using the slider, coupled with his fastball and curve, primarily, Boyd has kept batters uncomfortable, and it’s paid off. His wOBA of .264 is probably better than it will finish the year at, but the expected wOBA, based on exit velocity and launch angle coupled with strikeouts and walks, is still .288, way better than the .334 average xwOBA across MLB.

Kurt also pointed out that Boyd has tripled his slider rate, which has helped offset his drop in fastball velocity.

Can Boyd keep it going, though? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Detroit Tigers (20-27) at Minnesota Twins (20-23)

Time/Place: 8:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (2-3, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (1-4, 7.47 ERA)

Game 48 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Boyd 48.0 21.1 6.7 3.23 1.2
Lynn 37.1 22.8 16.1 5.35 0.0

The Lance Lynn experiment has not gone as expected, to say the least. The now-31-year-old righthander signed a one-year deal with the Twins in March in hopes of rebuilding value before another shot at free agency. So far, he is only costing himself more money. His ERA is in the 7’s thanks to a brutal April — he gave up 22 runs in 23 23 innings — and his command has been awful; he has a 16.1 percent walk rate that dwarfs his previous career high,

There are some reasons to believe, though. Lynn’s last few starts have been somewhat better, and include a six inning, two-run performance against the White Sox on May 5. He has toned down the walks some, though he did give up four free passes in his last start. He has a 10.4 percent swinging strike rate, which is the highest of his career. He has also given up 1.45 home runs per nine innings, more than double what he did during his best years in St. Louis. His 4.56 xFIP may not be entirely indicative of how he has pitched — that walk rate is awful, y’all — but might be a sign that better days are ahead.

If Lynn does get better, it has to start with the fastball. Opponents are hitting .358 and slugging .746 against his four-seamer this year, a pitch that he is throwing 45 percent of the time. Lynn has limited opponents to a .224 average and .383 slugging average with the four-seamer throughout his career, and was in that neighborhood even last season. He uses a trio of off-speed pitches periodically, but the fastball — either a four or two-seamer — dominates his pitch usage.

Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. Lynn’s platoon splits

While Lynn’s numbers are awful against pretty much everyone, he does have some significant platoon splits. Right-handed hitters are batting 60 points lower against Lynn than lefties, and have an OPS over 200 points lower. Sure, they’re still hitting .290/.396/.452, but he is striking them out at a 28 percent clip through 111 plate appearances. He has historically been very good against right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .634 OPS in over 1,000 career innings. If he can keep the walks in check, he should be able to hold this Tigers lineup down.


Boyd gets his third win of the year with a strong performance.

Gameday reading