Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Matthew Boyd

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 22: Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 22, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 22: Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 22, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

On Saturday, June 2, the Blue Jays play the middle game of a three game series against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers send Matt Boyd to the mound while the Blue Jays counter with J.A. Happ.

The Blue Jays drafted Matt Boyd in the first round of the 2013 amateur players draft. The Blue Jays then later traded the former sixth round pick to Detroit in a package for David Price in 2015. The Tigers targeted Daniel Norris in the trade, but Boyd has become a much better pitcher for the team.

The left-hander has made a concerted effort to work more quickly this year. He has followed through with this goal, shaving two seconds off his pace between pitches since last season. However, each of his pitches have also dropped at least two mph in velocity this season.

Boyd has made ten starts for the Tigers this year, posting a 3-4 record, 3.00 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.070 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. In total, the big left-hander has been worth 1.2 fWAR—just 0.7 behind his previous career high in 2017 (it took the him 25 starts to achieve that number last year).

Similar to Friday nights starter, Boyd is primarily a fastball-slider pitcher. However, the left-hander will also mix in a curveball, change-up, and sinker. Interestingly, his good year has been fueled by a massive uptick in usage of the slider, resulting in a severe drop in the use of both the change-up and sinker.

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The southpaw throws his slider 34.4% of the time, just slightly edging out the four-seamer. The slider currently averages a slow 80.7 mph, a big drop from the average velocity it held last year, at 86.1 mph. However, the slider has added some more sweeping glove side action than it held last year. Clearly the changes have worked as batters have hit a paltry .163 against the breaking ball. Furthermore, the slider has produced 30 strikeouts for the left-hander. In total, the slider has been the finishing pitch on 67% of his strikeouts.

Boyd throws his four-seamer 33.8% of the time, while averaging a decent velocity of 90.07 mph with some glove side run. The four-seamer has produced the most fly balls, 42.55% of balls in play, and the worst batting average against, a mediocre .281.

The curveball comes as a distant third in terms of use, featured just 14.1% of the time this season. The curve averages a slow 72.4 mph with long sweeping action and little drop. The hook has produced a poor rate of whiffs, just 20% of swings. However, it has produced a good batting average against of .211 and SLG against of .316.

The sinker and change up are used pretty evenly to finish the pitching repertoire. Boyd has used the two pitches 8.9% and 8.5% of the time, respectively. Interestingly, the change has a better ground ball rate, 47.47% of balls in play, than the sinker, 38.89% of balls in play. Despite this, the sinker has produced a great .056 ISO against, while the change has been hit hard, resulting in a poor .200 ISO against.

Also similar to Friday night’s starter, Boyd is an extreme fly ball pitcher—achieving this result 47.2% of the time. Despite his high fly ball rate, the left-hander has allowed a great HR/9 of 0.47, good enough for seventh in the majors.

However, he also has been the benefit of a minuscule 4% HR/FB rate. This rate is over 6% lower than his mark last season. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that by the end of the season the rate will find itself around 10.5%. His xFIP, which accounts for this reduced rate, suggests that his true skill this year has been worth an ERA of 4.93. It’s up to the Blue Jays to ignite this regression, though.

The Blue Jays have done well against Boyd, for the most part. Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar have owned Boyd in previous match-ups. Morales has nine hits, including three doubles, a triple (!), and home run, in 12 at-bats. In total, Morales has hit for a massive 2.167 OPS against the Washington native. Pillar owns three hits, including a home run, in seven at-bats against the Oregon State alumnus. As a team, the Blue Jays hold a great 1.262 OPS against Boyd. Thus they may be the perfect team to induce his power regression.

Next: Blue Jays: Jaime Garcia or Sam Gaviglio

The Blue Jays are set up for a good game Saturday afternoon. Tune in to hopefully see a Jays slug-fest and another great start for J.A. Happ. After a tough month of May, this game could be the boost a scuffling team needs.