Wednesday, May 4, 2016


When it came to picking among the various fantasy baseball pitching aces around the game, it appeared on paper that Oakland A's number 1 Sonny Gray was among the more safer investments.  Still very young at the age of 26 and with a smooth delivery that has not resulted in major injury, Gray seemed like the perfect guy to anchor your rotation despite the fact his K rate was not at the level of say Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, or even Carlos Carrasco.  It also didn't hurt the fact that Gray registered ERA's of 2.67, 3.08, and 2.73 his first three seasons in the game which are ace numbers without debate.  Fast forward to Tuesday night as Gray was pounded for 7 earned runs and 11 hits in 7 innings against the Seattle Mariners of all teams.  While four of the runs came when Gray tried to pitch into the eighth, it followed his outing before this when he went only 2 frames and surrendered 4 earned runs.  After the ugliness of Tuesday, Gray now sits with a crazy high for him 4.84 ERA and 1.44 WHIP and a 3-3 record.  With the season now into its second month, we are also moving past the small sample size portion of the season which makes this even more concerning.  So let's dig in and find out what is going on here. 

The first thing that stands out about Gray and his struggles is the fact that his BABIP is pretty much as neutral as it gets at .303.  One would automatically think that an ace pitcher like Gray would have been suffering from some horrible BABIP luck but the fact of the matter is that he legitimately has been bad as his FIP ERA of 4.53 show.  Also Gray has actually put up a HIGHER K/9 rate as well at 8.15 which is upwards from the 7.31 he had in 2015.  Thus we have to look elsewhere for the issues that are going on with Gray and you find it in the fact his control has been horrendous by his former lofty standards.  Right now Gray sits with a 4.80 BB/9 which is incredibly high for any pitcher and especially one who registered a 2.55 mark there a year ago.  For some reason or another, Gray is fighting his stuff and that is leading to free passes that are coming home when he gives up hits.  Then there is the fact Gray's hit rate per nine up sharply as well, with the biggest red flag being a 1.27 HR/9.  The HR/9 is troubling as Gray was at a tiny 0.74 and an even lower 0.62 in 2014.  However a trend is emerging there as this season marks the fourth year in a row Gray's HR/9 rate has gone up.  Usually anything over three years is a trend and so far that is what we are seeing here as Gray is becoming more hittable in front of our eyes.  How could this happen at the still young age of 26?  Well Gray debuted at 23 and in the subsequent seasons where he was a full member of the rotation, he has put up inning totals of 219 and 208.  There were no Verducci Rules for Gray which is a problem and we have seen other cases like with Matt Harvey this season of arms "bouncing" and losing some steam due to heavy usage at a young age.  One only needs to also look at the early flameouts of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain as further evidence of this.  Now we are not saying firmly this is what is going on with Gray but the evidence is striking when you consider he is making his own luck so far in 2016 and the home run rate is going bad. 

When you put it all together, Sonny Gray is a bit of a problem that is growing by the start for his fantasy baseball owners.  This is worth watching to see if it continues but the bottom line is that Gray is now pitching well below his expected ace status this season. 



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  2. Replies
    1. No not at all. He has been legitimately bad and rates are trending wrong way.

  3. Could you do a buy low segment or 3 hitters and 3 pitchers?

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