2016 Robbie Ray was not as bad as his win-loss record and ERA. Conversely, he was not as good as his 2017 win-loss record and ERA either. There are a few truisms with Ray: he is going to get a ton of strikeouts (12.1 K/9 last season), he is going to struggle with his command (3.9 BB/9) and he'll serve up some homers (1.28 HR/9). The difference between 2016 and 2017 was in his left-on-base percentage, as he stranded 68.7 percent of runners in 2016 but jumped that rate up to 84.5 percent in 2017. That latter rate is what power relievers do and starters struggle to eclipse 80 percent in consecutive seasons. He also avoided the Times Through The Order (TTOP) penalty; after allowing 49 percent of his 2016 earned runs when he was allowed to face batters for a third time, that number fell to 26 percent this past season. Expect the three truisms to continue.
Ray agreed to a one-year, $3.95 million contract with the Diamondbacks on Friday, avoiding arbitration, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Ray broke out in his age-25 season, posting a 2.89 ERA and finishing fourth among qualified starters in strikeout percentage (32.8). He still walks too many batters and can be susceptible to the long ball, but even with those warts, Ray has a strong case as a fantasy SP1 heading into 2018.
Ray was the pitcher of record in the Diamondbacks' 8-5 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday in Game 2 of the series. He lasted 4.1 innings and was charged with four runs on four hits, four walks and three wild pitches while striking out six batters. After tossing 2.1 innings in relief in the Diamondbacks' wild-card win over the Rockies on Oct. 4, Ray was called upon to start on three days' rest, and his fatigue showed. The four runs the lefty allowed were his second most in any of his last 10 appearances, with his inability to consistently throw strikes proving to be his downfall. With the Diamondbacks now in a 2-0 series hole, it's possible that Ray won't see the mound again in 2017 if the Dodgers are able to sweep Arizona in Game 3 on Monday.
Ray was charged with one run over 2.1 innings in relief Wednesday in the Diamondbacks' 11-8 win over the Rockies in the National League wild-card game. He gave up two hits and struck out three in the 34-pitch outing. The Diamondbacks limited Ray to 1.2 innings in his final start of the regular season Sunday specifically so that he'd be available in relief for the wild-card contest, and manager Torey Lovullo ended up calling upon the lefty out of the bullpen in the top of the fifth after starter Zack Greinke struggled early on. While he wasn't able to keep the Rockies off the board, Ray probably performed well enough in relief for Lovullo to justify turning to him again in that capacity when necessary during the Diamondbacks' postseason run. It's expected that Ray's next playoff appearance will come in a starting role, however, perhaps in Game 3 or 4 of the Diamondbacks' divisional series with the Dodgers, which commences Friday.
Ray will start Sunday's regular-season finale against the Royals. The Diamondbacks have already clinched a wild-card berth and they have an off day Thursday, but they will keep Ray on normal rest and get Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley acclimated to the bullpen in preparation for the postseason. Ray has put together a fantastic season and looks primed for the Game 1 start in the NLDS if Arizona makes it that far.
Ray (15-5) picked up the win over the Giants on Tuesday, allowing two unearned runs on three hits and two walks over five innings while striking out five. The Arizona offense, and J.D. Martinez in particular, staked Ray to an 8-0 lead after two innings, allowing him to take it easy and throw only 80 pitches (50 strikes) while still earning the win. Zack Greinke is set to start the NL Wild Card Game for the D-backs next Wednesday, but if they advance to the NLDS, Ray should be well rested when he takes the mound for Game 1.