Last year was the Yankees “rebuilding year” despite losing in Game 7 of the ALCS. With the emergence of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius, it seemed as though the Yankees were one starting pitcher away from being a serious contender. Brian Cashman went out and got Sonny Gray, the 2015 AL Cy Young finalist, right before the trade deadline. In 2017 Gray started 11 games with the Yankees and posted a 3.72 ERA, not awful, but definitely fell short of expectations. With the acquisition of NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the buzz was back in the Bronx, Gray’s mediocre start to his Yankee career was overshadowed by the hype of modern-day murderer’s row.
The Yankees have the best record in baseball right now at 28-12, they have lost five of the eight games Gray has started in this season. He is averaging less than five innings per start and has posted a 6.39 ERA. Along with his weak starts, he’s aided opposing teams burn through the bullpen as he is yet to get passed the 6th innings in a game. Despite inconsistency from the starting pitchers and bullpen, the Yankees are leading the MLB in runs scored and walks and are second in home runs; the offense is producing. The bullpen has struggled of late, most likely because of excessive use, but this problem emerged early last season as well, and they went on to have one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball.
Is this all on Sonny Gray? The Yankees pitching staff has implemented a strategy to cut down on the percentage of fastballs thrown. The Yankees have by far the lowest fastball percentage in the league. Which has taken away Gray’s aggressive approach, especially when facing lefties, where he could use his devastating two seamer to jam them up. This new approach has also affected Sonny’s ability to get ahead early in the count, only throwing first-pitch strikes about 50% of the time so far this year. It’s too early in the season to give up on Sonny Gray, he has shown in prior years he can be one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. The Yankees need to keep in mind that CC is getting older and retirement is on the way, so Sunny will need to make adjustments soon to remain a part of this starting rotation.