Fantasy Outlook: Sonny Gray
This was supposed to be Sonny Gray’s breakout year. Though not yet in the elite tier of starters, it appeared the 26-year-old was ready to join the ranks after finishing third in American League Cy Young voting in 2015. Many owners invested a high draft pick in the A’s ace, so it is important to take a look at his struggles and set expectations for the remainder of the season.
Through six starts, Gray is 3-3 with a 4.84 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched. While owners shouldn’t worry too much about ERA in the beginning of May, Gray’s FIP is mildly concerning. His 2016 FIP is 4.55, which is much higher than his career average of 3.44. FIP measures what a pitcher can control – home runs, strikeouts, and walks – and is therefore a better indication of performance than ERA, which can be influenced by luck.
By taking a closer look at Gray’s stats we can see that the problem this season has been walks and homers. After giving up just 17 long balls last year Gray has already permitted five. His current rate of 1.3 per nine innings is nearly double his career average of 0.7.
Even more concerning than the long balls are the walks he has allowed. His walks per nine has risen significantly, from 2.6 in 2015 to 4.1 this year.
Now, let’s look at the positives. Gray has never been an elite strikeout pitcher but has increased his strikeouts per nine in the early part of the season. In his two full seasons, Gray has had K/9 rates of 7.5 and 7.3. That number this year is 8.2. An increase in strikeouts is what analysts were hoping would help Gray leap into that elite tier of starters at the beginning of the season.
Making season-long judgements on starting pitchers after just six starts would be a mistake. However, Gray’s peripheral numbers point to legitimate cause for concern. There is still a lot of baseball to be played and Gray is certainly talented enough to make adjustments. Still, while his track record suggests he should remain in starting lineups, owners should no longer expect the breakout season many were calling for.