Sonny Grey Is Leveling Up

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Sonny Gray
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports activities

Pitching is difficult. There are such a lot of layers to it, together with mechanics, sequencing, proprioception, supination/pronation… the listing goes on and on. Relying on a participant’s persona and knack for together with analytical info of their studying and growth course of, digesting this info is usually a battle. Through the years, we’ve seen Sonny Grey progress by means of this expertise with a number of groups; now in Minnesota, it looks like he’s hitting his peak. As David Laurila wrote, Sonny Grey is evolving as a pitcher.

That interview that David carried out with Grey is a should learn. Having the participant’s perspective on how they’ve thought by means of their very own modifications and growth expertise helps provides route to an analyst, and it’s clear in that interview that Grey’s aim is to have a pitch that strikes in virtually any route. As any person who doesn’t have overwhelming fastball velocity (sixteenth percentile), it’s essential that he stays unpredictable and misleading. That hasn’t been an issue for him prior to now, however this yr he has leveled up his diversification. Under is a plot of his pitch motion chart in 2023 (high) versus 2022 (backside):

Final season, there have been basically two tiers of separation: fastballs in a single space, breaking balls in one other. For probably the most half, there isn’t a lot adverse mixing occurring inside both pitch group. The 2-seamer has distinct horizontal separation from the four-seamer, and the curveball has vertical separation from the sweeper. The horizontal distribution of the sweeper is on the tail ends of the curveball; Grey manipulated the pitch to have kind of sweep than the curveball to make sure that separation. This yr, he has taken his 2022 arsenal, improved upon it, and added two more practical pitches within the cutter and changeup.

In this interview with Rob Friedman, Grey goes into deep element in regards to the form of every of his pitches and why he thought it could be priceless to incorporate two new ones, notably the cutter, in his repertoire, and in regards to the worth of his cutter serving as an in-between for the 2 fastballs and two breaking balls. From the hitter’s viewpoint, doing that complicates attacking or locking in on one zone or velocity. In the event you’re a left-handed hitter sitting on a four-seam fastball on the internal third, a cutter may transfer in and jam your barrel or, if it has slightly extra vertical depth, slide proper underneath. The identical thought could be utilized for anticipating breaking balls; the cutter can keep up and freeze you rather than having the extent of drop or sweep of a curveball or sweeper. As well as, the cutter velocity is just some ticks quicker than the 2 breaking balls and some ticks slower than the 2 fastballs.

Grey has has carried out virtually all the pieces doable to guarantee he maintains deception. His launch factors are constant. He has a number of layers of motion each vertically and horizontally. He can differ velocity and motion inside a given pitch. In the event you have been to construct a pitcher who doesn’t have nice velocity however can spin the heck out of the ball, it is a darn good blueprint.

It’s necessary to see precisely how Grey makes use of these pitches throughout the context of an at-bat. You may have all this motion and velocity variety, however you continue to have to command every pitch and sequence appropriately. I’ll begin with an at-bat in opposition to a right-handed hitter.

Pitch 1 (0-0 depend, four-seamer)

Pitch 2 (0-1 depend, cutter)

Pitch 3 (0-2 depend, curveball)

Pitch 4 (0-2 depend, sweeper)

Pitch 5 (1-2 depend, sweeper)

Grey has gotten his cutter utilization as much as 17.6% on the yr; it is best to count on to see it just one or two occasions in an at-bat. However this at-bat in opposition to Yan Gomes is an ideal instance of how the pitch permits him to progress with a four-seamer by means of to a sweeper. Gomes didn’t pull the set off on the higher third four-seamer however did on a cutter that had sufficient separation to overlook his barrel. Grey adopted up with a curveball out of the identical tunnel, and Gomes chopped it on the bottom for a foul ball.

At this level, Gomes had did not differentiate his swing sufficient to get his barrel to any of those pitches, and Grey nonetheless had the sweeper in his again pocket. The primary he threw was backed up out of the zone, however the second was positioned in the identical tunnel as the opposite three pitches, and Gomes swung too early on it. Once more, the cutter isn’t the principle weapon right here; it’s one other layer to maintain Gomes guessing.

Now, right here is an instance of how Grey used the pitch in opposition to a lefty:

Pitch 1 (0-0 depend, curveball)

Pitch 2 (1-0 depend, cutter)

Pitch 3 (1-1 depend, curveball)

Pitch 4 (1-2 depend, two-seamer)

That is considered one of my favourite sequences from any pitcher all yr. After beginning with a curveball out of the zone in opposition to Brandon Belt, Grey adopted up with a cutter that stayed up. Belt was clearly ready for a breaking ball of some type based mostly on his timing and swing path, however the cutter bought above his barrel. As a result of Grey was capable of hold the pitch within the zone, Belt’s eye stage was modified, resulting in him chasing the subsequent curveball under the zone. With a 1–2 depend and two dangerous swings from Belt, Grey may’ve gone in a number of instructions however finally opted for a front-door operating two-seamer on the knees. Why? As a result of Belt had confirmed Grey that his swing was geared for middle-of-the-zone loft; horizontal entry low was unhittable for that swing path if Grey may execute it, and that he did.

Grey’s -5 run worth on his cutter is eighth within the league, proper behind pitchers with established elite cutters like Kenley Jansen, David Robertson, Marcus Stroman, and Camilo Doval. So as to add such an efficient pitch — a .231 batting common in opposition to, a .233 wOBA, and it doesn’t have dangerous splits, with a .153 wOBA and -2.4 run worth versus lefties — into your arsenal this shortly is a career-changing growth. All that, and I haven’t talked about Grey’s changeup utilization and effectiveness up to now (-1 run worth). Having a sixth pitch with a .125 batting common in opposition to is a premium not many different pitchers in baseball have, even in the event you simply often flash it (and Grey has thrown it simply 6.4% of the time).

Grey is on tempo for the very best fWAR of his profession and is a mere 0.4 wins behind the AL chief, Kevin Gausman. There could also be some regression coming contemplating he has solely given up one dwelling run all season, however that may be a talent he’s displayed his whole profession anyhow. If he can hold this up and keep wholesome, he’s in a for a profession yr.

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