Sonny Gray has been clobbered by opposing hitters this season, and Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs suggests that the root of his struggles could be an organizational pitching philosophy that the Yankees seem to be employing. As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan highlighted in an excellent piece earlier this month, the Yankees are using far and away the fewest percentage of fastballs in the league in 2018 — continuing a trend of increasingly diminished fastball usage in recent years. Ring notes that Gray, however, has never thrown fewer than 55 percent heaters (combining both his four-seamer and two-seamer/sinker). Gray’s success against lefties, in particular, has been in no small part attributable to the success of his fastball up and in on lefty bats, she observes. While there could obviously be multiple factors at play — Ring also notes a mechanical disparity between Gray’s wind-up from 2015 and from 2018, for instance — it certainly seems plausible that Gray’s increased use of breaking pitches is making it more difficult to position himself in favorable counts. He’s thrown a first-pitch strike to just 50 percent of the hitters he’s faced in 2018 — down from a career-best 61.7 percent in 2017.
More from the division…
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times takes an interesting look at the number of pitchers developed by the Rays in recent years, pointing out that there have been more games started by pitchers who were originally Rays (45 of 722) in the Majors this season than any other team. That doesn’t include starters-turned-relievers like Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Felipe Vazquez. As Topkin notes, that could be used as a damning method of lamenting the frequency with which Tampa Bay has to trade its talent or as a credit to the organization’s general ability to develop quality pitching. Topkin’s column runs through the best of the best in that group of original Rays and also looks at some names who could ascend that list.
- Teoscar Hernandez’s superlative play with the Blue Jays dating back to last September means he won’t be going back to Triple-A Buffalo anytime soon, as Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun writes. Manager John Gibbons notes that while the organization saw “a pretty good player” last year when acquiring Hernandez at the non-waiver deadline, Hernandez has improved in 2018 thanks to improved plate discipline and strike-zone recognition. “Who knows what happens (when Donaldson and Tulowitzki come off the DL), but [Hernandez has] got a chance to be an elite player in this game because he does things so easily,” said Gibbons. “He uses the whole field and he’s got as much power as anybody you’re ever going to find.” Hernandez is hitting .316/.391/.702 through 64 plate appearances in 2018 and has posted a collective .283/.340/.641 slash with a dozen homers in 159 PAs since coming over in a trade last July.