Seattle Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray is coming off a somewhat disappointing first season with the team after signing a 5-year, $115 million deal with the team. The deal was off the back of his 2021 AL Cy Young campaign, and win, with the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 2021, despite not even being an All-Star, he won the award off the back of a stat line of a 13-7 record, 2.84 ERA, 248 strikeouts and a 1.045 WHIP over 193.1 innings. His stats aided him in a 6.6 WAR, which led pitchers in the AL. He also led the AL in innings, strikeouts, WHIP, ERA+, ERA and games started, so the award was clearly his to lose.
It was by far the best season of his career and the first time since his 2017 All-Star campaign that his raw ability and actual production intersected for a good year. 2017 and 2021 alone account for 11.3 WAR, compared to his seven other seasons, which have accounted for just 6.5 WAR.
Ray has been a hit or miss over his career, but he has the stuff to be an ace, it is all about unlocking that stuff throughout an entire season. The biggest key to his success is being able to control the zone, getting weak contact when in the zone, and getting batters to swing and miss on his stuff out of it. Another key is his velocity, which went down across the board last season.
Baseball Savant shows that Ray had his velo go from 94.8 MPH to 93.4 MPH for fastballs from 2021 to 2022, offspeed velocity went from 88.2 MPH to 86.9 MPH and finally, breaking pitches velocity went from 87.6 to 86.8. His whiff percentage also went down, from 32.3% to 30% and his walk rate went from 2.4 BB/9 to 3.0 BB/9.
Despite being down across the board, there is still optimism for the potential ace in 2023. First off, now with a full year under his belt with the team, he will be more comfortable with the team, the ballpark and the atmosphere and the coaches overall, which is an unquantifiable thing, but an important one.
His strikeout rate for his entire career has stayed relatively consistent as one of the best in the league. He still averaged 10.1 SO/9 in 2022, down from 11.5 SO/9 in 2022, but still the tenth best in the league last season.
Along with that, his rate of giving up the long ball stayed consistent, remaining at 1.5 HR/9 over the last two seasons.
Overall, his Baseball Savant numbers point to the only two things that have drastically changed from 2021 to 2022 was his strikeout percentage (93rd to 78th percentile), walk percentage (73rd to 48th percentile) and fastball velocity (76th to 48th percentile).
With an entire offseason of regular work with the Mariners' pitching coaching staff and improvement in the rotation surrounding Ray, he will have a bounceback 2023 campaign. While not up to par with his 2021 Cy Young season, he could sneak into an All-Star appearance. Keep an eye on his arsenal too, as he found success when he adjusted his fastball partway through the 2022 season.