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Entries in Sonny Gray (2)

Sunday
Oct062013

A Brilliant Sonny Gray as Forecasted

Sonny Gray was brilliant last night for the Oakland A's last night in the Oakland 1-0 win over the Tigers that tied the ALDS at 1-1.

Justin Verlander was brilliant as well, but we have seen that many, many times before, so we are not focusing on him this morning. But most of the world of baseball fans had not seen Gray before in his 10 prior big leagues starts and in one of the best games of this baseball season they got to see a 23-year old righty who would not fit in with the Red Sox because all he seems able to grow is a wisp of a mustache.

Let's take a deep dive into Gray's performance last night

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
IPPP/PAFast#Curv#Slid#HBBKStrk#Strk%AVGOBPSLUG
Sonny Gray8.01113.83822724296558.6%.154.214.154

Look at the speed differential in Gray's pitches

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
PStrk#Strk%VelMxVelZone%Chas%ClStk%Miss%Foul%
Fastball824757.3%93.696.050.0%17.1%27.1%11.8%44.1%
Curveball271763.0%81.082.140.7%43.8%33.3%33.3%41.7%
Slider2150.0%82.783.20.0%50.0%0.0%100.0%0.0%

Gray by count

Sonny Gray vs the Tigers 10/5/2013
PStrk#Strk%VelMxVelZone%Chas%ClStk%Miss%Foul%
0-0 Count291655.2%91.295.458.6%8.3%48.0%0.0%75.0%
Two strikes261765.4%87.596.038.5%43.8%25.0%42.9%28.6%
Pitcher's Count361952.8%87.496.030.6%32.0%10.5%35.3%35.3%
Hitter's Count311754.8%92.794.951.6%6.7%0.0%5.9%47.1%
Even Count442965.9%91.095.456.8%31.6%51.6%15.4%46.2%

Two graphics speak volumes

You have seen the numbers, but the best way to truly appreciate what Gray did last night is by looking at where his pitchers went and, in the process, see why the Tigers were flailing and flustered

Gray's Fastball
Of the 82 fastballs that Gray threw, 34 were in the upper half of the zone and 64 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray FB
Gray's Breaking Balls
Of the 29 breaking balls (27 curves, two sliders) that Gray threw, 25 were in the lower half of the zone and 17 were in the outer half of the zone.
Gray BB

FYI
Gray only threw 10 pitches in the middle of the plate to three batters who swung at eight of them, fouled five of them off and went 0-for-3 on the other three.

The forecast is bright for Oakland

I believe it is required to make some kind of meteorological comment when writing about Sonny Gray, consider it done.

Gray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first round (18th pick) of the 2011 amateur draft and he is under the A's control until free agency year of 2019. Maybe by then he'll be able to grow a Red Sox beard

But, I leave you with Tigers' manager Jim Leyland's words, who summed it up perfectly:
“Gray was everything as advertised, a live fastball coupled with an electric curve. I have to give him a lot of credit. I mean we’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable, but you can’t take anything away from that performance."
Thursday
Sep052013

That's Quite a Curveball, Sonny

Sonny Gray has emerged as one of the game's great strikeout artists during his brief MLB career, punching out hitters at the sixth-highest clip (9.5 per nine innings) among American League pitchers who have thrown at least 35 frames this season. The 2011 first-round pick out of Vanderbilt has racked up those Ks with his curveball, which Baseball America called a "knockout" pitch and the best in the Oakland A's system entering 2013. Batters would surely agree: Gray has more strikeouts with his curve (20) since being inserted into the A's rotation on August 10 than every MLB starter not named A.J. Burnett.

Here's more on Gray's curveball, as the whiff-prone Houston Astros (punching out in an MLB-leading 25.5 percent of their plate appearances) just try to put the wicked pitch in play.

  • The 5-foot-11, 200 pound righty gets plenty of downward movement on his curveball, as it drops an average of 8.3 inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin. For comparison's sake, the average downward break on a curveball for starters is 5.8 inches. The only starters who throw the pitch regularly with more downward break are Chris Tillman, Kris Medlen, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Felix Doubront, Jeremy Hellickson and A.J. Griffin.
  • With that droping action on his curveball, Gray has buried the pitch as hitters' knees. Gray has thrown his curveball to the lower third of the strike zone 69.4% of the time, far above the 56.2% average for starters. Teammate Tommy Milone and Burnett are the only starters to throw a higher percentage of lower-third curves.

Pitch location of Gray's curveball

 

  • Pitchers with curveballs that drop like Gray's tend to induce more swings and misses than those with lesser downward break (hitters whiff about 31% of the time against curves with at least eight inches of downward movement, compared to about 28% on curves with less than eight inches of downward break). That has certainly been the case with Gray, who boasts a 42% miss rate with his curveball. That's on par with Fister, Stephen Strasburg (41%) and Clayton Kershaw (40.5%) for tops among starters.
  • Hurlers are also much more effective when they keep their curves low in the strike zone (.234 opponent slugging percentage) than when they hang a breaker in the upper-third of the plate (.319 opponent slugging percentage). Keeping his curve low in the zone, Gray has limited batters to a .125 slugging percentage against the pitch. He has yet to allow a home run when he snaps off a curveball.