I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff has been pretty awful lately. Oh you have noticed? Then you understand that the Crew needs to focus on adding a pitcher if it hopes to compete down the stretch. More than that, the Crew needs a starter that can help the rotation out past this year. Enter Matthew Boyd.
Matthew Boyd has been a major surprise for the Detroit Tigers in 2019. Heading into this season, Boyd carried a career 5.07 ERA with a 1.357 WHIP. His strikeouts were lacking at 7.7 per nine. Then he exploded this season.
Boyd currently sits at a 3.87 ERA, good for 16th overall among qualified starters in the American League. That’s solid but not special, but advanced metrics are loving Boyd’s performance in 2019. His Deserved Run Average sits at 3.00 and DRA- at 62, which ranks among the best in MLB among starters. His FIP sits at 3.56, so all advanced stats say his performance is actually better than his already good results.
His performance is better for two reasons: more ground outs and more strikeouts. Boyd is seeing the first positive outcomes from his fastball in his career. Before this year, his wFB was buried in the negatives. This season, he’s carrying a 5.6, a more than 8 run climb from last year. Combine that with his already successful slider (5.7 this year) and he’s been dominating hitters.
Meanwhile, Boyd has seen a 7% increase in ground balls this season. That has transitioned from his fly ball rate, helping keep balls out of the air. His HR rate is still poor at 1.60 per 9, but hitters making less contact and slamming more balls into the ground makes that more tolerable. On top of that, Boyd is limiting putting runners on with a phenomenal 1.68 BB/9 to control the damage that comes from those homers.
He’s apparently learned how important his slider and fastball are, too. He’s throwing his fastball 54% of the time, a 6% increase from last year. His slider comes 35% of the time, a career high. Meanwhile, his least effective pitchers — the curveball and changeup — are being used minimally.
Since there’s reasons for Boyd’s recent success in Detroit, there’s less concern that he could regress back into the sub-optimal player he’s been in years past. The issue with that it’s one reason that Detroit is putting a huge price tag on the righty. The other is that the team has control of the 28-year-old starter until 2023. He’s cheap, easy to cut ties with and controllable. That always means a significant demand.
As previously mentioned, the farm has been devastated by David Stearns over the last two years. Most of that has paid substantial dividends and helped the team compete, but that means there’s little ammunition left to acquire new talent. The Tigers would undoubtedly demand a substantial prospect for someone as controllable as Boyd, meaning Keston Hiura would be top of mind. But Hiura is what’s keeping the Brewers from also needing to find help at second base. There’s a chance that recent draftees like Brice Turang, Aaron Ashby and recently resurgent players like Trent Grisham could be enough, but it’s unlikely.
The Tigers have been burned by putting big price tags on their top trade chips lately. They failed to trade Michael Fulmer, slowing down the team’s rebuild. Since, he’s suffered from poor performance and substantial injury. Perhaps that experience could be an influence that encourages the team to take the best offer at the deadline. Still, that isn’t likely to be the Brewers based on the prospects they’re willing to trade. If Keston Hiura became available, the trade gets done easily.