Last Friday, I wrote I’m Sick of Sonny Gray. Since then, I haven’t been sick of Sonny Gray at all.
Gray has made two starts since I wrote how his performance was not only keeping the Yankees from running away with the AL East, but also eventually going to force them to give up more prospects to acquire another starting pitcher as a result of his incompetence. The Yankees won both of those starts with Gray pitching to this line: 14 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 1 HR.
The first of those starts was a 4-1 win over the Orioles (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR) and the second was a 3-0 extra-inning win over the Blue Jays (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K). That start against the Blue Jays was Gray’s best as a Yankee, and his first shutout of eight innings or more since July 28, 2015. (He had four shutouts of eight innings or more that season and two of them were complete-game, nine-inning shutouts.)
I, just like every other Yankees fan, really want Sonny Gray to be Sonny Gray again, and maybe this two-game resurgence that helped lower his ERA from 5.98 to 4.81 is an indicator that the former A’s ace, who the Yankees traded to slot behind Luis Severino along with Masahiro Tanaka, is really back to being his old self. Then again, the Orioles are 19-41 and the Blue Jays are 26-35.
Gray has been very good against teams under .500 in seven starts this season: 40 IP, 32 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 17 BB, 35 K, 3 HR, 3.15 ERA, 1.225 WHIP.
In five starts against teams .500 or better, he’s been very bad: 23.2 IP, 31 H, 20 R, 20 ER, 13 BB, 23 K, 4 HR, 7.60 ERA, 1.859 WHIP.
With plenty of teams following the tanking blueprint made successful by the Cubs and Astros, there are way more mediocre and bad teams in the league than there are good ones. Gray’s five starts against teams .500 or better have come against the Red Sox, Astros, Indians, A’s and Angels. The only other good AL team is the Mariners. So most of Gray’s starts, and any pitchers starts for that matter, will come against bad teams this season. That’s good news for the regular season, but the Yankees are going to the postseason. There’s no jinxing that. They are 40-18 with a .690 winning percentage and have already played all of their games this season against the Astros and Angels. Their second-half schedule is why I believe they will run away with the division.
Before the season, the Yankees didn’t know that Jordan Montgomery was going to go down with an elbow injury and need Tommy John surgery. They didn’t know that Masahiro Tanaka would build off his inconsistent 2017 season by being inconsistent once again in 2018. And they didn’t know that Gray would get off to the worst of his career and essentially be the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball to continue to get regular turns in a rotation. Even without knowing all of this, the Yankees still tried to add starting pitching in the offseason, so they aren’t going to stop now. But Gray can stop them from making a trade that could potentially cost them Cling Frazier or Justus Sheffield or other top prospects if he can build off his last two starts and completely turn his season around.
The Yankees got Gray because of his front-end starting pedigree and his career 3.42 and because he was under team control for the rest of 2017, all of 2018 and all of 2019 and because Michael Pineda was lost to a season-ending injury, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia were inconsistent and untrustworthy and Jordan Montgomery was a rookie. But they also go him for his postseason experience, pitching to 2.08 ERA in two starts and 13 innings against the Tigers in the 2013 ALDS. They need the Sonny Gray they traded for and not just against the Orioles and Blue Jays and Royals. They need him against the contenders as well.
I’m no longer sick of Sonny Gray. But we’re a long way from October, and until he proves he can’t beat teams with realistic postseason chances, I won’t be fully cured of him.