I can’t imagine what it is like to pitch for this Detroit Tigers team right now. This especially goes for Matthew Boyd, the 28-year-old lefthander who has worked tirelessly to improve his game over the past few years. Now that he is finally enjoying a breakout season worthy not only of our praise, but national recognition — if he’s not an All-Star, we riot — it has to be frustrating to dominate opposing lineups, only to see your club lose anyway because the offense can’t be bothered to score any runs.
Boyd’s plight isn’t quite as bad as some others — two of his teammates have received less run support than he has so far this year — but he isn’t getting much help. He ranks sixth-lowest among qualified AL starters with just 3.2 runs of support per game. The Tigers have scored just four runs in his last three starts, and have given him two runs or fewer in six of his 11 starts this year.
To Boyd’s credit, it hasn’t affected him much. He bounced back from a rough outing against the Houston Astros with a decent start against Oakland, and then a brilliant performance against the Miami Marlins five days ago. He struck out seven in six scoreless innings, marking the seventh time he has racked up at least seven punchouts this year.
Unfortunately, the Tigers have lost five of those seven games. Here’s hoping they don’t make it six of eight on Tuesday.
Detroit Tigers (19-32) at Baltimore Orioles (17-37)
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards
SB Nation site: Camden Chat
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, fuboTV, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Matthew Boyd (4-4, 3.11 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (2-5, 4.67 ERA)
Game 53 Pitching Matchup
Since we’re being rather gloomy today, let’s throw some cold water on the prospect train too. Righthander Dylan Bundy is something of a poster child for how pitching prospects don’t always pan out the way you might hope. He was one of the top prospects in baseball shortly after being drafted fourth overall in 2011, and dominated the minor leagues as a 19-year-old in 2012. But instead of ascending to the majors and helping the then-resurgent Orioles return to the postseason in 2013, he missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. He battled lat and shoulder injuries in 2014 and 2015, throwing just 63 1⁄3 total innings. Still only 22 at the time, things didn’t look good for him.
He stayed relatively healthy in 2016, though, and was able to log 109 2⁄3 innings, all with the Orioles. He put up a 107 ERA+ while striking out nearly a batter per inning, and looked to be back on track after getting derailed for a few years.
Unfortunately, Bundy hasn’t developed much since arriving in the majors full-time. His 107 ERA+ in 2016 is still his best season to date. While his strikeout rate has improved some — he topped out at 24.5 percent in 2018 — it has been accompanied by a barrage of home runs. Bundy led the majors in dingers allowed last season with 41 (!), and is giving up more than two homers per nine innings again in 2019.
There is still plenty of time for Bundy to improve, of course. He is only 26, two years younger than Boyd (Bundy is also younger than Spencer Turnbull, for that matter). He has shown the strikeout touch that eludes so many young prospects, and is limiting baserunners in a way he wasn’t able to last year.
Key matchup: The Tigers offense vs. scoring runs
It might be worth just copying and pasting this matchup into every game preview from here on out. While it isn’t particularly deep analysis, the Tigers’ inability to put runs on the board makes the more interesting dives into statistical anomalies or potential outcomes for a given matchup a moot point. The Tigers rank dead last in the American League in runs scored per game (3.40), nearly half a run lower than the next worst club (Cleveland, at 3.83). Detroit has just one everyday player hitting at an above-average level right now (per OPS+), and just two others if you take away the “everyday” qualifier. Most of their hitters are at an 80 OPS+ or lower, meaning they are more than 20 percent below the league average.
Detroit struggles to score again and loses their fourth in a row.