Colorado Rockies’ ace starting pitcher Jon Gray struggled through an incredibly tough 2018 season, a campaign that saw him get demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque for a couple of starts with the hope of getting him back on track, as well as being left off of the postseason roster. What was the cause of his struggles last season? What changed between his standout 2017 season and his underwhelming 2018?
There’s something we need to discuss.
Since Jon Gray gave up four runs on seven hits while recording just four outs in the 2017 NL Wild Card Game, a narrative has taken off that he can’t handle the big moments, and that he’s “mentally weak.” Gray’s extremely tough 2018 season didn’t help put this storyline to bed, either.
First, let’s dig into the numbers. When it was all said and done, he finished last year with an ERA of 5.12 in 31 starts. He threw 172.1 innings in those 31 starts, struck out 183 hitters and walked 53, one of which was intentional. The numbers that stand out to me are his 180 hits given up, 102 runs allowed (98 earned, which led the NL) and 27 home runs surrendered. Every one was a career-high.
It’s worth taking a look at his advanced peripheral stats as well. His fielding independent pitching (FIP), which essentially gives you a better idea of what his ERA would have been had he experienced league-average results on balls in play and league average timing, according to Fangraphs, was 4.08, more than a full run lower than his ERA.