Robbie Ray Continues to Baffle by Mike Podhorzer September 20, 2016 Robbie Ray’s latest eight strikeout, five runs allowed effort, has continued what has become a baffling season from a results perspective. His 4.66 ERA is obviously poor and ranks 13th worst among all qualified Major League starters. But he has still attracted interest from fantasy owners thanks to a plethora of strikeouts. Let’s take a look at where he ranks in a variety of metrics among 78 qualified starters to get a better idea of just how bizarre his performance has truly been. Robbie Ray’s Baffling Performance Metric ERA SIERA ERA-SIERA K% SwStk% BABIP LOB% HR/FB Hard% Value 4.66 3.46 1.20 28.7% 11.8% 0.353 69.3% 14.5% 36.8% Rank 66 8 3rd highest 4 13 78 64 64 76 Though Ray sports an ugly 4.66 ERA, his SIERA is a much more exciting 3.46, leading to an ERA-SIERA discrepancy that ranks as the third highest among all starters. Aside from the strikeouts, that SIERA is the other primary reason fantasy owners are still hanging on and his CBS ownership stands at a robust 69%. His strikeout rate ranks fourth highest, driven in part by a strong SwStk% that ranks 13th highest. Ray is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, and both his four-seamer (9.6% SwStk%) and slider (20.5%) have generated whiffs at a better than average clip. But oddly despite his clearly superior stuff that induces plenty of swings and misses, batters have had no such issues making high quality contact when they do manage to put the ball in play. Check out how poorly he ranks in the four metrics that follow his SwStk% in the table! He sports the highest BABIP among all starters and his Hard% is third worst. It’s no surprise then that batters are also knocking a high rate of Ray’s fly balls induced over the fence. Between the high BABIP and HR/FB rate, his LOB% has been suppressed, furthering inflating his ERA. It’s always strange to me when I see a pitcher post a high strikeout rate — indicating high quality stuff — paired with a high BABIP and hard contact allowed. It’s just difficult for me to reconcile the fact that a pitcher’s stuff could be good enough to miss bats, but not good enough to drive positive outcomes when the ball is put into play. Ray has only thrown 322.1 innings over his career, but a high Hard% and BABIP has become a trend for him. Does it have anything to do with his limited arsenal? Surely it would make sense that a pitcher with a more varied repertoire could do a better job of limiting hard contact and keeping hitters off balance. But I cannot recall any studies that related numbers of pitches thrown with these metrics that Ray seemingly has trouble controlling. Perhaps there is at least some clear explanation for the high BABIP, besides just the hard contact — the Diamondbacks have stunk at defense this year. Like worst in baseball stinky. Their -9.8 UZR/150 is dead last in baseball and the team’s pitching staff owns the highest aggregate BABIP as a result. So it’s not all Ray’s fault, though clearly some of it is given how hard batters are hitting the pitches he has thrown. The sample size of Ray’s entire body of work still remains too small to determine whether his penchant for allowing hard contact is a real weakness or just a relatively short-term fluke. Obviously, if it ultimately proves to be a lingering problem, he’s probably going to continue to underperform his expected ERA metrics. But we cannot be sure now. And since that’s the case, his strikeout ability, combined with his potential for a sub-4.00 ERA with an improved defense next year, means he’s going to be a popular sleeper, and rightfully so. But since he’s in Arizona, and has such a limited track record, I have a feeling that his hype will not get out of control and he’ll remain a good value and cheap in drafts.