Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 48-61   Tigers 32-75

GAMETIMES: Monday 6:10, Tuesday 12:20 and 6:10, Wednesday 12:10

TV: NBCSN Monday and both Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

THAT NERD LOOKS LIKE JAM: Bless You Boys

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts and Pitching Staffs

Matthew Boyd Spotlight

There is something a little cruel about the Sox and Tigers matching up in the dead of August, and there’s something outright sadistic about making them play a doubleheader on Tuesday. Then again, there’s something poetic about it as well. How can you not get romantic about baseball?

Well, you could watch the Tigers regularly, for one. This is a team that’s going to have an end to the season written by Dante. They traded the one hitter they had to the Cubs in Nicholas Castellanos, and there is nothing left behind here. Miguel Cabrera has lost most of his power and he needs a Rascal to get to first base, which he doesn’t do as often as you’d think. There isn’t any hitter here that has even an average wRC+ other than Brandon Dixon, who has been relegate to backup duty.

What the Tigers have to be selling is that there are some kids up, but even that’s a stretch. Travis Demeritte was part of the return for Shane Green, but he has only 90 good games at AAA after two barely “meh” years at AA. Victory Reyes barely did anything at the AAA level either, but he’s here in left. Jake Rogers has taken over the catching duties, and he tore AA apart for 30 games, but was middling at Triple-A as well before getting the call. To say there are going to be some bumps would be the height of politeness.

The one thing the Tigers can do is throw some starters at you, as the Sox will see both Daniel Norris and Spencer Turnbull this series, the latter coming off the IL today. They’ll miss out on the ace, Matthew Boyd though. Those three have been serviceable to great, and even that hasn’t kept the Tigers from being the worst team in baseball. Wait until they start conserving these guys’ innings. However, again, in the rotation only Tyler Alexander is 25 or below, and it’s worthy to ask if any of these guys will ever pitch a game that matters at Comerica.

As you might expect with a team this bad, the bullpen is full of kids who pee in the sandbox at recess, and even more so now that it’s been shorn of Green. Whatever work the starters do is likely to be undone when they hand the ball off, not that it will matter that much because it’s likely the offense will have only provided a run or two at most. The last two months here are just going to be hilarious, as long as you’re not a Tigers fan.

For the Sox, they’ll trot out Hector Santiago to fill in for the doubleheader on Tuesday, while Giolito, Cease, and Nova get the softest landing possible. The pen could probably use a reset after whatever that was in Philadelphia.

This one’s for the diehards only. You know who you are.

Baseball

It’s hard to fathom that the Tigers could be worse than they are. This is a team that somehow found a way to be four games worse than the Orioles so far, and the Os are going to give up 300 homers this season. But the Motor City Felines really could be, as they’ve gotten decent work from the rotation that’s been the flower growing out of the concrete of the dump. Matthew Boyd especially, along with Daniel Norris (scourge of the Cubs) and Spencer Turnbull have put in more than decent work, and without them one wonders if the Tigers would even have 25 wins by now.

You can sort of see why the Tigers held onto any or all of them, because someone has to take the ball now and later when they might matter again. The question is if that’s going to be Boyd.

Boyd is certainly having a breakout year, with career-bests in ERA, FIP, WAR, strikeout rate, and walk rate. Boyd seems to have gotten there by becoming Patrick Corbin West, as he’s eschewed a curve he used to use for using his slider about a third of the time the past two seasons, when he had never even used it more than 11% of the time in his first few years in the majors. Boyd has had a huge spike in whiffs-per-swing on it, rising to 33.3% last year and 42.1% this year. According to FanGraphs, and really digging into the nerd-numbers, it’s been the fifth-most valuable slider this year, behind Corbin himself, Verlander, Scherzer, and Tanaka. Those first three names are ones you want to be amongst in any category, even as one as specific as this.

The real key for Boyd has been that he’ll throw that slider in any count, where before it was mostly used as a put-away pitch. There is no such thing as a fastball count these days, and Boyd is just another example of that, more than happy to throw his slider behind in the count than before. Before he threw it a third of the time when behind or even in a count, and now both of those are around or above 40%. If it’s getting that many whiffs, why not?

Again, the numbers suggest that the Tigers have a real piece here and he’s something to build around. Here’s the kicker though; he’s 28. So while he figures to have at least a couple more good years left, how many will he have left when the Tigers are actually good again? That’s at least three years down the line, when Boyd will be 31. Corbin, with his similar repertoire, is 30, and still going strong, but slider-heavy pitchers tend to fall off a cliff pretty quickly (we present Chris Archer as Exhibit A).

Boyd is only arbitration eligible this winter, and not a free agent until another three seasons after that, so it costs the Tigers pretty much nothing to see how long he can keep this up. And during any one of those arb years they can still move Boyd along for a bonanza if he continues to pitch at this level. Years of control add layers of value to a trade piece.

Still, it’s awfully sunny to think that he’ll be this good for four more years when he cashes in, whether that’s with the Tigers or not. He is only throwing fastball-slider now and it’s hard to see how he’d adjust when that doesn’t work as well, though to be fair to him it’s not like he blows away people with his fastball now. It might have plunged the Tigers into the depths that no one’s ever seen…except for the Tigers themselves when they lost 119 games.

If you’re going to go whole hog on a rebuild, go whole hog. They still might yet.