Inconsistency, adaptation and growth are a few nouns that belong in the conversation when discussing Matthew Boyd's 2020 campaign. The 29-year-old began the shortened season as Detroit's opening day starter, although he didn't live up to the expectations for year six of his major league career.
When Boyd reflects on 2020, he'll notice a less than ideal 6.71 ERA, which is the highest among qualified Major League starters. 45 is the number of earned runs the left-hander will see next to his name, which also leads the majors.
Hard contact was a nagging issue for Boyd, particularly during the midst of a rocky start to the season. Two of the MLB-leading 15 home runs that Boyd allowed in 2020 came in back-to-back fashion on Aug. 12 against the White Sox in Detroit. His subsequent start on Aug. 17, also against the South Siders, but this time in Chicago added three more homers to his season total.
"Ever since that blowup in Chicago [in mid-August], it's been consistently getting better and better and understanding my game and getting back to what I do," Boyd said after his final start of the season on Saturday against the Royals. "This is another step. Now, there's going to be a few days between starts."
The last start of Boyd's season exemplified the evolution that his arsenal of pitches underwent throughout 2020. In six innings against the Royals, Boyd allowed three earned runs, collecting his third quality start of the season.
52% of his 98 pitches against Kansas City were four-seam fastballs, 22% changeups, 12% sliders, 11% curveballs and 2% sinkers.
According to Statcast, Boyd delivered fastballs or sliders 86% percent of the time in 2019. By contrast, 2020 will tell you that he stepped away from his slider and incorporated his changeup on a more frequent basis.
Boyd's slider, which he utilized 36.1% percent of the time last season, fell to 22.7% this season.
"The slider wasn't as consistent, I mean it was tonight, but overall on the year it wasn't, so we just relied on the other stuff more because of that. I learned how good my other stuff is and how to pitch with it," Boyd said. "And when the slider's back, it's not lost--just keep working it--we'll work it this offseason, and it'll be pretty special when all of them are firing."
Boyd wore a bright, somewhat optimistic smile while making those remarks. A smile, comparable to that of a rookie pitcher who's just discovered a new toy in his arsenal.
The 29-year-old isn't a rookie; in fact, he's become something of a veteran mentor, keeping watch over Detroit's youthful pitching staff.
However, he's recognized that change and adaptation are two constant themes in the life of any artist.
"Constant work in progress," Boyd said. "This happened for a reason. Really opened my eyes to how good that pitch is (changeup), same with the curveball. There's a lot of blessings in this year, a lot of ways to grow from it. Really thankful for that."
Boyd physically limped to the finish line with plantar fasciitis ailing his left foot over his final few starts.
The numbers may not have always been aesthetically pleasing, but the hope for next season resides in the idea that Boyd took a step towards becoming more of a four-pitch pitcher.
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