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Arizona Diamondbacks Game Preview, #144: Ray's K's

Games until the blessed end of the season: 19

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jorge De La Rosa
LHP, 8-7, 5.00
Robbie Ray
LHP, 7-13, 4.46
Charlie Blackmon - CF Jean Segura - 2B
DJ LeMahieu - 2B Chris Owings - SS
Nolan Arenado - 3B Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Carlos Gonzalez - RF Welington Castillo - C
Ryan Raburn - LF Yasmany Tomas - RF
Mark Reynolds - 1B Jake Lamb - 3Bst
Nick Hundley - C Brandon Drury - LF
Cristhian Adames - SS Mitch Haniger - CF
Jorge De La Rosa - LHP Robbie Ray - LHP

Robbie Ray's strikeout rate continues to blossom, now it 11.15 per nine innings, higher than anyone else in the major with 100 innings thrown, bar Jose Fernandez. He'll likely hit 200 K's this evening - he needs five, and that will make him the first Diamondbacks to hit the double-century in strikeouts since Dan Haren in 2009. With four outings likely left, it's probably going to go to the wire with regard to whether he surpasses Haren's total of 223. He needs seven K's per start, and has been averaging 6.96. However, his last four resulted in a total of 34 strikeouts, including 12 in just six innings against the Dodgers last time. Only Ian Kennedy and Randy Johnson have fanned as many in six innings or less for Arizona.

And, yet... Ray's ERA stubbornly sits at 4.46. That's far and away the highest figure ever, of any pitcher with such a strikeout rate. The next highest, among the 36 men with 100 IP in a season and a K-rate above 11, is 3.74, by Max Scherzer for the Tigers in 2012. Among NL pitchers, it's more than a run better, Steven Strasburg's 3.40 for the Nationals this year. The problem is Ray's BABIP of .354, which is close to 60 points above league average (.296). His line-drive rate (21.9%) is not very different (21.0%), but he is allowing rather more hard-hit balls than most pitchers - 36.4% compared to 31.5%. Those are more likely to become hits, and so probably are responsible for the higher BABIP.

That's a little odd, because Ray seems to have good "swing and miss" stuff - his swinging strike percentage, of 11.4%,is excellent, and is tied for 8th in the National League. It's also double what the same figure was two years ago, when he was with the Tigers. It seems that Ray is teetering on the edge of putting it all together, and if he does so, then he may well become a pitcher comparable to those with similar strikeout rates. Should that happen, then it's very likely the best pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017, won't be the one getting paid a million dollars per start.