Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Sonny Gray

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on June 30, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Sonny Gray #55 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on June 30, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

On Friday, July 6, the Blue Jays start a three-game series against the New York Yankees. The Yankees have announced Sonny Gray as their starter for the game. The Blue Jays will send Sam Gaviglio to the mound.

Sonny Gray has not enjoyed his time in the Bronx. In June he has been slightly better, but he has still struggled, posting a 4.63 ERA. However, if you want a true testament of how hard his time with the Yankees has been, this is actually an improvement from his season numbers.

As well, unfortunately for the Jays, he pitched a gem in his last start against Toronto. The righty pitched eight complete innings, allowing two hits, two walks, and no earned runs—while striking out eight. However, on April 20, the right-hander also allowed five earned runs across three and a third innings against the Blue Jays.

In his last start, the right-handed hurler was dominated by the Boston Red Sox. The Sox managed seven hits and six earned runs over 2 1/3 innings. The Yankees eventually lost the game 6-5.

As referenced before, the twenty-eight-year-old has struggled this season. Through sixteen starts, the right-hander has posted a 5.44 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 1.512 WHIP, and 78 ERA+. In total, he has been worth a disappointing 0.9 fWAR.

For a young pitcher, the right-handed starter has a wide array of pitch offerings to mix between. This season, batters have faced a sinker, four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, and cutter.

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Opposing batters have encountered Gray’s sinker 27.9% of the time this season. The sinker is decently quick, averaging a velocity of 93.86 mph, with natural arm side run. With this good velocity and movement, the pitch has produced ground balls at a crazy rate of 62.07% of balls in play. However, the pitch has also been hit quite hard, allowing four home runs and a .433 SLGA.

The righty’s four-seam fastball is just behind the fastball, in terms of use rate, featuring in games 27.7% of the time this season. The heater is just a little bit faster than the sinker, posting an average velocity of 93.96 mph. The four-seamer has not worked well for the Yankees starter this season, allowing a .333 BAA, .506 SLGA, and ten extra-base hits.

The right-hander has broken off hooks 21.3% of the time this season. The breaking ball is relatively quick, averaging a velocity of 82.14 mph, but it maintains just slight arm side break and cut. However, it has been quite effective, producing 26 strikeouts and limiting opposing batters to a paltry .309 SLGA.

Gray has fired home sliders 17.1% of the time this season. Interestingly, the slider is the two strike pitch to right-handers, featured 40% of the time, but the curve is the strikeout pitch for left-handers, featured 35% of the time. Despite this, the slider has been more effective at missing bats, producing whiffs at a great rate of 37.4% of swings.

The starter’s repertoire is completed with occasional change-ups and cutters. Neither pitch has fared well this season. The off-speed pitch has allowed a .539 BAA and 1.000 SLGA. Even worse, the cutter has allowed two walks and a single in three plate appearances.

The right-handed hurler is currently poised for a bounce-back second half of the season. With a good ground ball rate of 47.6% and a crazy .321 BABIP, one would expect his ERA to fall back down to earth as the season heats up. His FIP suggests that his true skill sits at a 4.39 ERA.

Gray’s strikeout and walk numbers are very concerning. He has produced a below average K-rate of 19.7% and similar 7.95 K/9. As well, the former Athletic has allowed a poor BB-rate of 9.7% and a bad 3.92 BB/9.

As shown in their last start against the Vanderbilt alumnus, the Blue Jays do not enjoy hitting against Gray. Teoscar Hernandez is a bright spot, though, hitting two home runs in eight-career at-bats against the righty. However, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales have been dreadful. Smoak has managed just six hits in 32 at-bats against the Yankee. Even worse, Morales has just four hits in 25 at-bats.

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Despite poor numbers against the rest of the league, the Blue Jays have never been able to consistently solve Gray. The Jays will likely look to win the same way they did the last time Gaviglio started—score just enough runs to win (4-3 final score in Gaviglio’s last start).