What if Nationals pitcher Josiah Grey had an elite fastball?

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

Some tweaks to his fastball might get Josiah Grey to the following 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 crammed with pink in classes like weak contact share, anticipated batting common in opposition to, chase fee, and whiff share. But, with that many nice figures in that many vital classes, you’d count on Grey’s base stats to be slightly higher.

Grey’s rookie season was stricken 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 probably the most half. Whereas Grey’s fastball spin fee has regressed from final 12 months, nearly each different statistic has improved. Strikeout fee, 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 evening—marking his sixth begin in his final seven outings going at the very 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 could 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 underneath the solar, he throws his fastball most frequently (43 % of the time to be actual). 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 problem. The difficulty is his spin fee.

In 2022, Grey’s fastball averages 2,181 rotations per minute. That’s fairly common, and that lack of spin is probably going a giant motive 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 ball—he’s the most effective in MLB at it truly—however that backspin must be accompanied by velocity and spin fee to be efficient in opposition to hitters. Grey has neither. When your fastball, the pitch most individuals depend on after they must throw a strike, is your least efficient pitch, that’s a foul state of affairs 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 depend, reliant on that fastball, extra typically than he would in all probability prefer to.

Moreover, Grey likes to dwell 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 house run fee. Of all pitchers with at the very 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 must dwell decrease within the zone and rely extra on floor balls. I do know that may damage 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 end in 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 quite than depend on the excessive warmth to power 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 powerful 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 grow to be the filthiest pitches in MLB, liable to a number of spotlight reels on YouTube of hitters flailing at nothing. That’s after we’ll see Grey flip the nook and grow to be the elite pitcher everyone knows he might be.

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