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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #19, Robbie Ray

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Robbie Ray has developed into a potential number one starter.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers - NLDS Game Two Photo by Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 21.78 (7/41/17)
  • Seasons: 2015-2017
  • Stats: 89 starts, 492.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 7.3 bWAR
  • Best season: 2017 - 28 starts, 162.0 IP, 2.89 ERA, 5.5 bWAR

The Diamondbacks brought in Robbie Ray in 2014 as part of the Didi Gregorius trade. At the time, he had very little big league experience and the D-backs had plenty of shortstops. Just a year earlier, he was traded to the Tigers. A left-handed pitcher with a strong arm was not exactly being highly valued. He pitched over 127 innings his first year with the Diamondbacks in 2015. His numbers looked good with a 3.50 ERA with 119 strikeouts. He had a promising year but started a trend of barely reaching 5 innings with a high pitch count. 2016 was not a breakout year as his ERA ballooned to 4.90 with the same pitch count issues. But his strikeout numbers surged. He struck out 218 in 162 innings. Per the suggestion of Mike Butcher, he made the decision to throw hard every inning, to not hold back. It showed.

2017 was the year that it finally became clear that Robbie Ray was a potential #1 starter. He made his first all-star game while dropping his ERA to 2.89, lowering his WHIP to 1.15 (an improvement of a third of a point), holding batters to a sub .200 batting average, and showing the intangibles of a top of the rotation starter. What changed? Sean Testerman broke it down beautifully in June in his article, Robbie Ray Found His Third Pitch and It’s Amazing. Sean makes the case that it was Ray’s development of a curveball that changed Ray for the better. When Ray was on in 2017, he was completely dominant.

But he’d still have those games in 2017 that he used to have much more frequently in prior years. Maybe 5 innings, 4 or 5 walks, 4 or 5 runs with over 115 pitches. Perhaps some nights he wasn’t feeling his curveball. Or he couldn’t get that third strike like he struggled to get in the past for some other reason. But the good thing was that this type of game was now his floor, rather than his ceiling or typical game.

Unfortunately, his Game 2 division series start against the Dodgers was that floor. A few days prior he was forced to come into the Wild Card game to save the day for the team. We will never know if that had an effect, but Ray could not produce as he had hoped in that game.

2018 will be a big year for Ray. Will he solidify his standing? Regression is certainly a possibility. However, he seems to have a fire about him that fans love. Even when he had a scary blow to the head, he came back to the mound seemingly without fear. The D-backs will need him to have another successful year with another chance to make things right during postseason play.