What if Nationals pitcher Josiah Gray had an elite fastball?


Some tweaks to his fastball could get Josiah Gray to the next level.

Some tweaks to his fastball might get Josiah Grey to the subsequent degree.
Picture: Getty Pictures

Coming into the 2022 season, Josiah Gray was Washington’s No. 3 prospect. He was a top-100 prospect all through all of final season when he was dealt to the Nationals as a part of the Trea Turner/Max Scherzer deal. In his restricted time with the Dodgers and Nats final season, Grey confirmed flashes of excellence. His Baseball Savant page was full of crimson in classes like weak contact share, anticipated batting common in opposition to, chase charge, and whiff share. But, with that many nice figures in that many necessary classes, you’d anticipate Grey’s base stats to be somewhat higher.

Grey’s rookie season was affected by inconsistency. For each Aug. 7 at Atlanta got here a Sept. 5 against the Mets. Grey, who posted a 5.48 ERA, clearly had some points, particularly with regard to limiting the lengthy ball, and followers had been hoping Grey might shore up these flaws in his sophomore season.

And he has, for essentially the most half. Whereas Grey’s fastball spin charge has regressed from final yr, nearly each different statistic has improved. Strikeout charge, hard-hit share, common exit velocity—all of them are trending upwards for Grey. However there are nonetheless some causes for concern. After his career-high 11-strikeout efficiency in opposition to the Phillies final night time—marking his sixth begin in his final seven outings going at the least 5 and giving up two or fewer runs—analysts and followers alike had been taking to the web to speak about how excellent and filthy Grey is.

His slider is totally devastating. It will probably make lefties buckle on the knees and make righties swat at flies a foot off the plate. Nonetheless, his fastball must develop earlier than he can push that 4.14 ERA and 4.94 FIP into the mid-3s. Grey’s fastball is the weakest of his four-pitch repertoire—fastball, changeup, slider, curve—however as is the case with each pitcher below the solar, he throws his fastball most frequently (43 % of the time to be precise). Whereas his velocity is decrease than you’d like an ace’s to be—sitting at only a hair over 94 miles per hour—that’s not the difficulty. The difficulty is his spin charge.

In 2022, Grey’s fastball averages 2,181 rotations per minute. That’s fairly common, and that lack of spin is probably going an enormous cause why it’s been Grey’s least efficient pitch. To place that in perspective, Yankee ace Gerrit Cole at the moment is averaging 2,455 rpm, 39-year-old Justin Verlander is sitting at 2,413, and even rookie MacKenzie Gore is averaging 2,233 rpm. Grey does an incredible job of placing backspin on the ballhe’s top-of-the-line in MLB at it really—however that backspin must be accompanied by velocity and spin charge to be efficient in opposition to hitters. Grey has neither. When your fastball, the pitch most individuals depend on once they should throw a strike, is your least efficient pitch, that’s a foul scenario to be in. And with Grey at the moment throwing solely 58.8 % first-pitch strikes—as soon as once more, fairly mediocre—he’s going to search out himself behind within the rely, reliant on that fastball, extra usually than he would most likely prefer to.

Moreover, Grey likes to reside excessive within the zone together with his fastball. That’s not a foul factor—in case your fastball is efficient. That is doubtless one other massive think about Grey’s excessive residence run charge. Of all pitchers with at the least 50 innings pitched this season, Grey possesses the fifth-highest home runs allowed per nine innings at 1.9. Till Grey provides extra spin to his fastball, he’s going to should reside decrease within the zone and rely extra on floor balls. I do know which may harm his strikeout numbers, however his fastball has by no means actually been his putaway pitch. Whereas Grey’s slider and curveball have maintained a 29.9 and 24.6 % putaway percentage (share of two-strike pitches that lead to a strikeout), his fastball holds simply an 11.2 putaway share. Grey ought to proceed utilizing the excessive fastball in two-strike counts, but when he’s going to go away it excessive, he wants to ensure it’s out of the strike zone and close to unimaginable for the hitter to take deep. He must arrange his slider or curveball somewhat than depend on the excessive warmth to drive swings and misses, even heavier than he already is.

You don’t must have a dominating four-seam fastball to have an extended, profitable MLB profession. Look no additional than Sergio Romo, who has performed 15 years within the Majors now—for eight groups, no much less—and just about solely ever threw sliders and sinkers. Nonetheless, most elite starters these days boast a formidable fastball that makes their offspeed filth all of the extra devastating. If Grey can develop that fastball only a tiny bit extra, his slider and curveball might develop into the filthiest pitches in MLB, susceptible to a number of spotlight reels on YouTube of hitters flailing at nothing. That’s after we’ll see Grey flip the nook and develop into the elite pitcher everyone knows he may be.

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