Sonny Gray's resurgence with Reds continues thanks to a more effective slider

The Cincinnati Reds won on Tuesday, giving them their fourth victory in their past five tries and pulling their record to 9-13 on the season. Cincinnati topped the Atlanta Braves 7-6 behind a number of new additions: Yasiel Puig homered and drove in three; Jose Iglesias rapped two hits; and Sonny Gray continued to make the deal that netted him over the winter look prudent.

Gray threw 5 ⅓ innings versus Atlanta, allowing six hits and four hits (three earned) without issuing a walk. He struck out nine batters, giving him roughly five times as many Ks as walks on the year. His seasonal ERA is now 3.28, or a full run and a half better than it was last season.

Entering the season, it was a common prediction that Gray would pitch better after being reunited with college pitching coach Derek Johnson. Gray and Johnson have made plenty of noticeable tweaks to the right-hander's game. For example, he's using his four-seamer more and his sinker less, making the former his primary heater. There's also the matter of Gray's slider. You might recall that back in spring Gray criticized his old team, the New York Yankees, for having him throw too many of what he considered a bad pitch

Gray has since taken a liking to his slider, deploying it as his main two-strike pitch. It's working, seeing as how he has a would-be career-best 45 percent whiff rate on it, per Statcast. To be fair to Gray, this doesn't appear to be the same slider he had with the Yankees. Rather, this pitch features more two-plane movement, enabling him added depth.

On Tuesday, Gray generated 13 whiffs on his 88 pitches. Eight came on the slider.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories