Monday, June 29, 2009

Chris Ray

This has not been a good season for Chris Ray. He's allowing 15.4 hits per nine innings, 5.1 bb/9, has a 10.24 ERA, and he allowed a home run yesterday. Reader Legends commented yesterday:
I know Chris Ray is your college buddy, but how much longer are the O's going to trot out Chris Ray 3-4 times per week to take a beating? I am not sure he can get anybody out. Package him in a deal, stay with him, back to Norfolk? I say goodbye.
Now, there are plenty of good reasons not to get rid of Chris Ray just yet: 1) he's cheap; 2) he still has options; 3) he's just coming back from Tommy John surgery; 4) he has a solid track record; and 5) this is what relievers sometimes do. The real question is whether or not he has any hope for a comeback. I'm optimistic, not only because he has maintained (and actually improved) his strikeout rate this season. When you're striking out 10.2 per nine, you're doing something right. Let's look at his outing from Sunday via Pitch FX data, courtesy of the totally awesome Brooks Baseball:

Average Fastball Velocity: 95.29 mph
Average Slider Velocity: 85.68 mph
Comment: Good fastball velocity; good pitch speed separation

Strikezone Plot:
Comment: As you can see, the home run Ray allowed came on a fastball right over the middle of the plate. He doesn't appear to be getting the ball to his arm side very well, but this is a very small sample size.

Horizontal Movement:

Comment: He's getting good movement on his fastball; how does his slider compare to pre-surgery? Unfortunately, we can't really tell because I can't find Pitch FX data for Chris Ray for 2007.

Conclusion: It seems that Chris doesn't quite have his command all the way back following surgery. This shows in both his BB/9 (up to 4.9) and his XBH% (10.4%); he's throwing fewer strikes, and those that are strikes are frequently getting hit hard. He's also suffering from an incredible .462 BAbip. However, he is still missing bats and getting strikeouts. While Trembley should probably refrain from using Ray in high leverage situations for the time being, the evidence seems to indicate that Chris can be an effective reliever once again.

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