This season, one of the biggest surprises on the Blue Jays roster was Robbie Ray, the left-hander who was acquired by the Jays at the 2020 trade deadline and re-signed with the club on a one-year, $8 million dollar contract for the 2021 season.
Figuring to be a back of the rotation arm with some control issues, Ray was anything but that, as the Tennesse product was one of the best arms in the rotation. He would finish the campaign with an AL-leading 2.84 ERA, 193.1 innings pitched, 248 strikeouts, and a 1.04 WHIP while finishing second in terms of opponent’s batting average (.210) and tying for first amongst a host of other pitchers with 32 starts.
For most of the season, Ray was right alongside the rest of the league’s top pitchers and didn’t really struggle too much this season besides a few outings where he failed to go past 5.0 innings. He did have some command issues to begin the year, a six-walk performance during his second start of the season being the pinnacle, but he was able to reel it in and finish with only 52 walks on the year. This is seven more than his 2020 campaign where he led the league in base on balls, a vast improvement under a full season with pitching coach Pete Walker and the rest of the Blue Jays coaching staff.
One of the top pitchers in the AL this season, Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray should be the Cy Young Award winner this season.
As the regular season is over and with free agency just a few weeks away, there are a few Blue Jays players who could be in contention for some personal hardware. This includes Ray, who should be a finalist for the Cy Young award and potentially the frontrunner, with the likes of Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers Jr., and any other potential finalist paling in comparison to the numbers Ray put up as well as how important he was to the organization.
Similar to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. offensively for the Blue Jays, Ray was instrumental for the club in the rotation as the top starter, especially with Hyun Jin Ryu going through his ups and downs and Alek Manoah not joining the club until late May, similar to Jose Berrios and his late July start with the organization.
Comparing Ray’s accomplishments to that of last year’s winner Shane Bieber on the Cleveland Guardians, both players led the AL in ERA, Pitcher WAR (6.7), and strikeouts. Bieber does have the advantage of the top K/9 and H/9, as well as the elusive pitching Triple Crown, while Ray’s 11.54 and 6.983 would finish third and second in the AL respectively, but the southpaw did finish with the most innings pitched, something Bieber did not accomplish last year.
Any way you spin it, there just wasn’t a pitcher in the American League who outperformed Robbie Ray this season and he has rightfully earned the top pitching honour. The Cy Young Award should be his this season and that should probably boost the competition for his services this offseason, even if he ends up leaving the Blue Jays.