clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Breaking down Texas Rangers starter Jon Gray

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers signing Jon Gray to a 4-year $56,000,000 deal heading into the 2022 season was a questionable move due to his lack of consistency. Last year he was solid pitching to a 3.59 xERA, but based on his ERA of 2.50 this season he’s taken it to a new level. However, his xERA of 4.39 tells us that’s a lot of luck meaning St. Louis Cardinals hitters should be able to have some success against the former Colorado Rockie. Despite that luck though, Gray still does have a solid arsenal which we will review down below.

Pitch #1 - Four seam - 2023 usage rate - 42.6 percent

2023 stats - .306 xBA, .541 xSLG, .398 xwOBA

Average velo - 95.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,003 RPM - vertical movement - 16.9 inches (2.3 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 10.1 inches

Despite throwing this pitch 42.6 percent of the time, based on the metrics, this really is not a good pitch for Gray. The biggest reason for the poor numbers against it is the fact that it has a hard-hit rate of 44.9 percent with a combined line drive/fly ball percentage of 57.7 percent, two numbers that do not bode well for the success of a pitch. Like most four seamers, Gray does throw this pitch consistently in the strike zone with an in-zone percentage of 59.6 percent, the highest of all of his pitches by 9.2 percent. However, when he throws it in the zone, hitters' whiff at it just 14.9 percent of the time, another number that is going to lead to poor success for a pitch.

Pitch #2 - Slider - 2023 usage rate - 19.2 percent

2023 stats - .180 xBA, .242 xSLG, .202 xwOBA

Average velo - 87.5 MPH - Spin rate - 2,422 RPM - vertical movement - 32.8 inches - horizontal movement - 3.6 inches

Based on a few metrics, I think there is a strong argument to be said that the slider is Gray’s best offering. The first of those being the whiff rate it generates at 40.6 percent, 9.5 percent closer than his next highest pitch. The chase percentage against it is also the highest amongst his pitches at 45.5 percent and the chase whiff rate sits at 60.9 percent. Additionally, when he throws it in the zone and batters swing, they miss it 23.6 percent of the time. The usage rate on the pitch does go up to 23.6 percent against right-handed batters compared to dropping to 15.3 percent against lefties.

Pitch #3 - Sweeper - 2023 usage rate - 15.8 percent

2023 stats - .189 xBA, .303 xSLG, .256 xwOBA

Average velo - 83.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,499 RPM - vertical movement - 35.1 inches (3.1 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 11.6 inches

The sweeper, the pitch that everyone in baseball seems to be throwing, is a great offering for Gray. Whilst it does not have the chase or whiff rates that his slider does, it is second amongst his pitches in both of those statistics. What this pitch excels at for Gray is working batters on the ground as the ground ball percentage against it is 53.1 percent. In addition to that, the average exit velocity against it is 81.5 percent, the lowest number against his pitches and the hard-hit rate is just 12.5 percent.

Pitch #4 - Changeup - 2023 usage rate - 14.3 percent

2023 stats - .298 xBA, .398 xSLG, .338 xwOBA

Average velo - 88.4 MPH - Spin rate - 1,436 RPM - vertical movement - 28.5 inches - horizontal movement - 14.9 inches

The main reason that this pitch is in Gray’s arsenal is for when he faces left-handed batters. The usage rate against them is 20 percent usage rate compared to just 8.9 percent against righties. It has the second highest in zone percentage at 50.4 percent with an in-zone swing rate of 76.1 percent. It is a bit surprising that Gray continues to throw this pitch in the zone when hitters swing at it so often when located there and if Gray continues with that same approach against the Cardinals, look for their hitters to attack this pitch.

Pitch #5 - Curveball - 2023 usage rate - 7.7 percent

2023 stats - .378 xBA, .709 xSLG, .485 xwOBA

Average velo - 78.7 MPH - Spin rate - 2,541 RPM - vertical movement - 53.2 inches - horizontal movement - 12.4 inches

Like the changeup, the main purpose of this pitch is to go after left-handed batters with a usage rate of 12.3 percent against them. There are only nine batted ball events off of his curveball this season so we do have to take those metrics with a bit of a grain of salt, but I would say this is Gray’s worst pitch. The put away percentage is just 8.3 percent which is his worst mark on any pitch for him since 2020. In addition to that, amongst pitches he has thrown more than 10 times in a single season, the chase rate against it of 15.8 percent would be the fourth lowest mark on any pitch in his career.

Key matchup - Nolan Arenado - The one pitch that Arenado has had any semblance of success against this season is the four-seam fastball. His run value against them is 9, against all other pitches combined he’s at -10. Due to that statistic alone, I do expect Gray to avoid throwing his former teammate many if any four seam fastballs. I expect Arenado to see a steady diet of sliders, a pitch he had an xwOBA of .258 against this season from Gray. For this matchup I’m going to predict Arenado goes 0-3 against Gray with one of the outs coming via the strikeout.

Prediction - Gray throws 6 innings, allows one earned run and strikes out 7.