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A profitable street journey, together with a uncommon sequence win in Houston, has the Seattle Mariners on target. Now, the revitalized Mariners are positioned to climb even greater within the AL West and AL Wild Card standings throughout their upcoming homestand towards the Pink Sox, Twins, and downtrodden Angels.

Nonetheless, not every part went as deliberate for the Mariners throughout stops in Baltimore, Arlington, and Houston. Maybe essentially the most alarming growth; the regression of Opening Day starter Robbie Ray. In confrontations with the Orioles and Astros, the 2021 AL Cy Younger Award winner allowed eight runs, 4 residence runs, and 6 walks in 10 innings. Actually, suboptimal outcomes from a pitcher anticipated to guide Seattle’s beginning rotation.

So, what’s occurring with Ray?

I’m unsure there’s a definitive reply to that query. However listed below are 10 issues value realizing about his 2022 season.

Strikeouts are down, walks are up

Baseball Reference credit Ray’s 11.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings because the all-time excessive in MLB historical past. But, the southpaw hasn’t been hanging out hitters as usually in 2022 as he did a season in the past. Regardless of this downturn, his strikeout share stays higher than league-average this 12 months.

Robbie Ray’s Strikeout & Stroll Charges

Whereas we’d discover some solace realizing Ray nonetheless boasts an above-average strikeout fee, it’s arduous to disregard a six-percent decline from his banner season in 2021. In any case, hanging out hitters has been the 30-year-old’s calling card all through his big-league profession.

Ray can be permitting extra walks than final season. However we have to maintain issues in perspective when contemplating the success of a pitcher with a well-earned repute for offering free passes to hitters. Since debuting with the Tigers in 2014, the left-hander has a profession 10.2% stroll fee.

He provides up a whole lot of dingers

In his most up-to-date outing, Ray surrendered three residence runs within the first two innings towards the Astros. One to the primary hitter of the sport, Jose Altuve, after which a pair of dingers to Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick within the second body.

All instructed, Ray has allowed 14 residence runs to 298 hitters this 12 months, which equates to a 4.7% residence run fee. Solely three certified pitchers have allowed homers extra incessantly than the nine-year veteran – Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi (5.7%), Bruce Zimmermann (5.4%) of the Orioles, and Washington’s Josiah Grey (5.3%).

Nonetheless, it’s essential to acknowledge Ray has been inclined to the lengthy ball in latest seasons. Not simply 2022.

Ray’s HR Fee
2014 (3.7%)
2015 (1.7%)
2016 (3.1%)
2017 (3.5%)
2018 (3.6%)
2019 (4%)
2020 (5.2%)
2021 (4.3%)
2022 (4.7%)

MLB HR fee = 2.7%

Ray’s residence run fee throughout his Cy Younger marketing campaign is comparatively just like what we’ve seen from him throughout his first season as a Mariner. Nonetheless, we should keep in mind residence run numbers are down throughout the league in 2022. The MLB residence run fee this 12 months is 2.7% after being 3.3% in 2021.

Surprisingly, loud contact isn’t up

Opponents could also be clobbering residence runs towards Ray at an above-average fee in a season with depressed offense. However their hard-hit and barrel charges towards the twelfth spherical choose of the Nationals stay comparatively secure.

Robbie Ray’s Barrel and Arduous Hit Charges

To be thought of “arduous hit,” a batted ball should have an exit velocity of 95-mph or better. The league at the moment has a .480 AVG and .927 SLG on hard-hit balls this season. Equally, a “barreled” ball is the perfect mix of launch angle and exit velocity. This usually results in essentially the most damaging hits towards pitchers. Proper now, barrels are making a .708 AVG and a pair of.320 SLG for hitters.

The fastball isn’t as quick

Ray’s common four-seam fastball velocity is down 1.6 mph from his Cy Younger marketing campaign. In of itself, that will not look like an enormous deal. Perhaps it isn’t. Then once more, the share of four-seamers he’s thrown with a velocity of 95 mph or better is markedly down this 12 months in comparison with final 12 months and his profession common.

Proportion of 4-Seamers >= 95-mph
2015 (35.9%)
2016 (53.9%)
2017 (31.2%)
2018 (17.7%)
2019 (0.9%)
2020 (21.2%)
2021 (46.7%)
2022 (7.6%)

Ray’s profession common = 30.4%

It’s not simply the decreased frequency of 95+ mph four-seamers that’s caught my eye. The uptick in unfavourable outcomes Ray is realizing on these pitches can be worthy of consideration. For many of his profession, he’s has held opposing hitters to an anticipated batting (xBA) hovering close to or under the MLB-average. That’s modified in a foul means this 12 months.

For these of you not accustomed to xBA, it’s a Baseball Savant product representing a batted ball’s likelihood of turning into a success based mostly on its exit velocity and launch angle. Since xBA excludes protection from the equation, it permits us to higher gauge the effectiveness of Ray’s excessive velocity four-seamers with out the undue affect of fine or dangerous fielders behind him.

Fewer fastballs, extra sliders

Maybe the decline within the velocity and effectiveness of his four-seam fastball has one thing to do with Ray turning to his slider extra incessantly in 2022. He’s employed the slider nearly 11% extra usually than a 12 months in the past. Throughout the identical time interval, fastball utilization has dropped about 7%.

Ray’s slider has delivered higher general outcomes than his four-seamer this 12 months. However that’s not essentially saying rather a lot. Opponent xBA towards the pitch is at its highest level of any season for the reason that Statcast period started in 2015.

Opponent xBA vs Ray’s Slider
2015 (.201)
2016 (.171)
2017 (.213)
2018 (.182)
2019 (.207)
2020 (.175)
2021 (.162)
2022 (.231)

MLB xBA on sliders this 12 months = .222

Hitters are swinging at his first pitch rather a lot

Ray’s 43.7% first-pitch swing fee is the very best towards amongst 134 pitchers who’ve confronted at the very least 150 batters this 12 months. In truth, solely two others inside this group have a first-pitch swing fee over 40% – Eovaldi (40.1%) and Toronto’s Kevin Gausman (41.1%).

What I discover extra attention-grabbing than Ray main the majors in first-pitch swing fee is the actual fact opponents are letting it rip on his first providing at a considerably greater fee than any season in his profession. In truth, there’s been a 10% enhance over final 12 months.

Swing Fee on Ray’s First Pitch
2015 (27.3%)
2016 (22.7%)
2017 (27.3%)
2018 (24.4%)
2019 (26.2%)
2020 (26.7%)
2021 (33.3%)
2022 (43.7%)

MLB common in 2022 = 30.3%

Maybe it is a nothing-burger fabricated by the creativeness of a dull-minded blogger. However the opponent with essentially the most runs scored (6) in a sport towards Ray this season swung at his first pitch extra usually (65.5%) than every other membership has this 12 months. That membership can be the Chicago White Sox.

Including a layer of intrigue to my pea-brain conspiracy idea, Chicago’s Tim Anderson commenting after his crew’s April 13 assault on Ray that the White Sox designed a plan of assault for Ray.

“We succeeded with our plan and caught to the plan all through the entire sport. We had been in a position to pull out some extra runs and stretch the lead a little bit bit.” – Tim Anderson 

Was being aggressive on Ray’s first pitch a part of Chicago’s plan? Maybe Anderson was referring to one thing else he’d desire retaining below wraps for the reason that White Sox nonetheless have to go to Seattle this season. Then once more, the numbers don’t lie.

Hitters are swinging at Ray’s preliminary providing far more in 2022 than ever earlier than.

They’re additionally extra aggressive within the zone

Ray is finding pitches within the strike zone about as usually as he did final 12 months. But, hitters are swinging at in-zone pitches way more incessantly in 2022 than any time in his MLB profession.

Maybe this transformation in strategy has one thing to do with a lowered fastball velocity, altered repertoire, or newly-crafted technique employed by opposing hitters. Having stated that, I’m not certified to deal with what’s required to be a profitable skilled pitcher at any stage. For all I do know, Ray might be tipping his pitches.

Nonetheless, the elevated frequency of in-zone swings towards Ray has captured the eye of this pitching-dumb blogger.

He delivers innings

Regardless of his struggles this season, Ray continues to put up. Final 12 months, he paced the AL with 193.1 innings, which was fifth most in MLB. This 12 months, his 70.2 frames at the moment ties him for fourth greatest within the majors with Oakland’s Frankie Montas. Solely Sandy Alcantara (83.2), Aaron Nola (74.2), Justin Verlander (71.2), and teammate Logan Gilbert (71) have extra mound time than Ray.

Within the size division, Ray leads the Mariners with eight begins of six-or-more innings. Furthermore, solely 11 starters have extra six-plus inning outings than the Brentwood Excessive Faculty product. This issues as we mirror on Ray’s season to this point. The competitiveness and skill it takes to stay in video games when a pitcher doesn’t have his greatest stuff shouldn’t be neglected. It’s a high-demand intangible in brief provide throughout the majors.

The wage isn’t outrageous

Pissed off followers usually level to a high-paid participant’s wage when he’s underperforming expectations. On the floor, it’s an comprehensible sentiment that’s definitely applies to Ray’s newly-inked five-year/$115 million free agent take care of Seattle. However this mindset is considerably perplexing to me.

Positive, we would like the gamers with the most important paychecks to ship outcomes commensurate with their salaries. However that’s not how baseball works. To see what I imply, check out the 16 beginning pitchers with a wage of $20 million or extra in 2022 not named Robbie Ray. 5 aren’t at the moment accessible to their respective golf equipment resulting from harm, one other has been on the restricted record for over a 12 months.

High SP Salaries In 2022
Max Scherzer ($43.Three million)*
Gerrit Cole ($36 million)
Jacob deGrom ($36 million)*
Trevor Bauer ($35.Three million)+
Stephen Strasburg $35 million)*
Chris Sale ($30 million)*
Zack Wheeler ($26 million)
Justin Verlander ($25 million)
Marcus Stroman ($25 million)
Patrick Corbin ($23.Four million)
Madison Bumgarner ($23 million)
Carlos Rodón ($21.5 million)
Kevin Gausman ($21 million)
Noah Syndergaard ($21 million)
Robbie Ray ($21 million)
Hyun-Jin Ryu ($20 million)*
Charlie Morton ($20 million)

*Injured record
+Restricted record

Not solely that, Ray isn’t the one the high-dollar hurler encountering difficulties this season. Patrick Corbin, Marcus Stroman, and Charlie Morton all have a 5-plus ERA this 12 months. In the meantime, Madison Bumgarner has underperformed since becoming a member of the Diamondbacks in 2020.

To be clear, I’m not attempting to decrease Ray’s bumpy debut together with his new crew, which is actual. However committing over $100 million to a free agent is a dangerous proposition, particularly to a beginning pitcher.

Satirically, a phase of Mariners fan griping Seattle doesn’t spend sufficient cash can handle to concurrently complain the crew has wasted its cash when a high-dollar free agent scuffles. Sorry of us, that’s the danger groups take after they wade into the high-dollar finish of the free agent pool.

The {hardware} doesn’t make the person

Incomes the 2021 AL Cy Younger Award was undoubtedly an enormous deal for Ray. It was an incredible honor capping off an impressive season-long efficiency. Nonetheless, his taking residence the {hardware} a 12 months in the past has raised expectations to ridiculous ranges within the Emerald Metropolis.

Realistically, the model of Ray we noticed final 12 months might by no means seem once more. In time, 2021 might finally be considered because the outlier season of his profession. Am I doubting his expertise or skill to rebound from his sluggish begin this 12 months?

Completely not. Nevertheless it ought to be clear to anybody who’s adopted alongside thus far in our dialog that Ray’s 2021 numbers far exceeded something the lefty beforehand completed and what he’s given to the Mariners this 12 months.

Maybe Ray is destined to by no means repeat his Cy Younger success with Seattle. Nevertheless it gained’t matter as lengthy he stays wholesome and improves his manufacturing to profession norms. If this occurs, the Tennessean can be a particularly priceless contributor to the Mariners in 2022 and past.

Even when he by no means wins one other private award.

My Oh My…

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a local New Yorker, who grew up as a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he determined to make Seattle his residence.
In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider crew. Throughout baseball season, he can usually be discovered observing the native crew at T-Cellular Park.
You may comply with Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins

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