The Mariners Have Misplaced Robbie Ray for the Season

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports activities

Robbie Ray didn’t replicate his 2021 AL Cy Younger-winning kind final yr. Actually, he struggled down the stretch, however he did make a strong contribution because the Mariners ended their 21-year playoff drought. Alas, he received’t get to assist them attempt to repeat that feat. On Wednesday, the Mariners introduced that the 31-year-old lefty will endure surgical procedure to restore a torn flexor tendon and miss the rest of the season.

After a promising spring coaching by which he restored some misplaced velocity to his four-seam fastball, Ray made only one begin, and it wasn’t fairly. Going through the Guardians on March 31, he wanted 26 pitches to finish the primary inning, throughout which he issued back-to-back four-pitch walks to José Ramírez and Josh Bell earlier than escaping by hanging out Josh Naylor. His fastball velocity rapidly diminished and he lasted simply 3.1 innings, strolling 5 and surrendering 4 hits and 5 runs (three earned).

Within the fast aftermath, Ray didn’t inform reporters that he had felt tightness in his forearm beginning within the second inning, an issue that he attributed to the chilly climate. After present process an MRI the subsequent day as a result of lingering soreness, he was identified with a Grade 1 flexor pressure; solely in discussing the damage with reporters did he reveal his discomfort.

The Mariners shut Ray down for 2 weeks. Forward of a session earlier this week, each the pitcher and the workforce had been optimistic that his restoration was on monitor, however new photos revealed the flexor tendon pressure. In a briefing earlier than Wednesday’s recreation in Philadelphia, supervisor Scott Servais told reporters, “The precise space that he broken, that [has] been sort of repaired… However he received some new photos, after which he was nonetheless having some ache down within the elbow space. So, they took some extra photos and that’s what they discovered.”

Thus ends the second season of Ray’s five-year, $115 million take care of the Mariners, who signed him away from the Blue Jays on November 30, 2021, lower than two weeks after he received the Cy Younger. He led the AL in ERA (2.84), strikeouts (248), innings (193.1) and bWAR (6.9), although as a result of his comparatively gaudy 1.54 HR/9 and three.69 FIP, he positioned simply seventh in fWAR (3.9). With the Mariners, Ray equally struggled to maintain the ball within the park, serving up 1.52 homers per 9. In the meantime, as his common four-seam velocity dipped from 94.8 mph to 93.4, his strikeout and stroll charges moved within the mistaken route, with the previous dropping from 32.1% to 27.4% and the latter rising from 6.7% to eight%. Nonetheless, he topped 200 strikeouts for the fifth time in his profession, with 212; amongst lively lefties, solely Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw have carried out so extra instances (seven apiece).

Even with the strikeouts, Ray’s 3.71 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 1.8 fWAR had been middling in comparison with his 2021 numbers as a result of he significantly scuffled in September, getting tattooed for a 5.27 ERA and 5.89 FIP in 27.1 innings over his ultimate 5 begins, all of them Mariners losses. Solely a kind of was a high quality begin, that after he’d delivered six straight from August 5 to September 3. His struggles continued into the postseason, as he lasted simply three innings whereas giving up 4 runs in Sport 2 of the Wild Card Collection towards the Blue Jays (although they got here again to win in dramatic vogue), then served up a walk-off three-run homer to Yordan Alvarez in aid within the Division Collection opener towards the Astros. He received the ultimate two outs for the Mariners within the 18-inning epic Sport 3, however solely after Penn Murfee served up the decisive solo homer to Jeremy Peña.

It doesn’t seem as if Ray’s late-season slide is expounded to his damage given how nicely he pitched nicely throughout spring coaching, permitting two runs in 17 innings whereas hanging out 25 and averaging above 95 mph along with his fastball. Via the Seattle Instances‘ Adam Jude, Ray “credited his improved velocity this spring to with the ability to have a traditional offseason routine — no MLB lockout to work round, no free company to navigate, to want to get acclimated to a brand new workforce and a brand new metropolis.”

All of which makes this damage a fair greater bummer, for as Leo Morgenstern famous, Ray’s a a lot totally different pitcher with an additional little bit of velocity. Selecting up his desk from a pair weeks in the past:

Ray’s Profession Efficiency by FB Velocity

FB Velocity wOBA
≥94 .289
≤93 .368
≥94 .321
≤93 .372

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Already Ray’s loss has put the Mariners in a considerably unfamiliar place, as a result of final yr, they didn’t ship a single starter to the injured record. Ray — who himself has by no means been on the IL as a result of an arm damage and who ranks sixth in games started since 2016 (193) — Logan Gilbert, and Marco Gonzales every made full enhances of 32 begins, whereas George Kirby was recalled in early Could to exchange the struggling Matt Brash, and Chris Flexen made 21 earlier than shifting to the bullpen when Luis Castillo was acquired on July 30. No streak like that lasts endlessly, although, significantly at a time when injuries are on the rise.

As to the place this leaves the Mariners, who’re simply 11-13 and in fourth place within the AL West, the reply is just about the identical as earlier than: on the lookout for a dependable alternative. Castillo has been incredible, pitching to a 1.52 ERA and 1.64 FIP, whereas Gilbert, Gonzales and Kirby have been ok; every has both an ERA or FIP of three.32 or decrease, with the opposite determine half to three-quarters of a run increased. Flexen, nonetheless, has been rocked for a ten.38 ERA and 6.96 FIP in 17.1 innings whereas being hit at a .345/.417/.566 clip, which on the very least places him on skinny ice.

As for the alternate options, the more than likely within the quick time period might be 36-year-old lefty Tommy Milone, who made a cameo on April 14, throwing 4.2 innings of one-run ball towards the Rockies, strolling two, hanging out three, and serving up a homer. That was the well-traveled southpaw’s first main league begin in virtually precisely two years, although he did make seven appearances out of the bullpen for Seattle final yr. Since 2016, he’s had stints with eight groups (together with the Mariners in 2019 as nicely), posting a 5.75 ERA and 5.39 FIP in 330 innings, which doesn’t recommend he’s a everlasting answer.

Milone’s at the moment pitching for Triple-A Tacoma, as are righties Easton McGee and Darren McCaughan, each of whom are on the 40-man roster as organizational depth moderately than as prospects. The 25-year-old McGee, who stands 6-foot-6, was a fourth-round choose by the Rays in 2016; he made one three-inning aid look for the workforce final yr however was subsequently misplaced on waivers to the Crimson Sox after which offered to the Mariners. He’s a soft-tossing sinker/slider type who has traditionally generated a ton of groundballs whereas lacking few bats, although final yr, he abruptly turned a fly baller; it didn’t work nicely, as he served up 2.01 homers per 9 whereas posting a 5.43 ERA with a 17.4% strikeout fee and a 5.72 FIP at Triple-A Durham. The 27-year-old McCaughan, a 2017 Twelfth-round choose, has three main league appearances totaling 10 innings, one in all which got here this yr; he’s spent elements of 5 seasons together with a lot of the previous two at Tacoma, the place final yr he posted a 4.56 ERA, 22% strikeout fee, and 4.72 FIP. After hanging out 10 in his most up-to-date begin on April 23, he might be in line for a glance.

Of larger curiosity from a prospect standpoint and in addition at Tacoma (however not on the 40-man) is 24-year-old righty Taylor Dollard, who final yr was a forty five FV prospect and the group’s Minor League Participant (and Pitcher) of the 12 months after placing up a 2.25 ERA and three.60 FIP at Double-A Arkansas. A fifth-round 2020 choose, he gained some velocity final yr and now throws within the 91-93 mph vary, although studies of a plus slider (sweeper) and plus command have been offset by latest struggles to find the pitch. The final consensus is that he’s a strong back-end candidate within the making, although within the wake of a tough outing, he simply landed on Tacoma’s seven-day injured record as a result of arm soreness.

Additionally from their 2020 draft is first-round choose (no. 6 total) Emerson Hancock, a 23-year-old righty who’s been at Arkansas since late 2021 and who has been chosen for the previous two Futures Video games. “Some felt Hancock had the most effective pure stuff within the 2020 draft, as he persistently touches the higher 90s and provides a vicious slider,” wrote Eric Longehagen in Hancock’s Prospect TLDR, however since then a shoulder damage (2021) and lat damage (2022) have slowed each his growth and his fastball, limiting him to 143 skilled innings and a four-seamer that’s now averaging 94 mph. His changeup is now the star of a four-pitch combine with doubtlessly plus command. Final yr at Arkansas, he posted a 3.75 ERA however a 5.31 FIP in 98.1 innings.

Arkansas teammates Bryce Miller (the workforce’s solely preseason prime 100 prospect as a 50 FV) and Bryan Woo (a preseason Choose to Click on for subsequent yr’s prime 100) may each change into choices with extra seasoning. The previous has a fastball that does a ton of injury on the prime of the zone and is a legit plus-plus pitch, per Longenhagen, whereas the latter has a fastball that’s been completely dominant as a result of its using life and uphill angle. This being the Mariners, overseen by one Jerry Dipoto, it’s secure to imagine that in some unspecified time in the future another or two will come from exterior the group by way of a commerce, although the prospect cabinet is comparativley naked relative to previous years. Till then, the workforce must discover methods to flee the doldrums with the choices readily available. Already their playoff ddds have taken an enormous hit relative to the preseason:

Mariners Change in Playoff Odds

Date Proj W Proj L Proj Win% GB Win Div Clinch Bye Clinch WC Make Playoffs Win WS
Preseason 82.3 79.7 .508 5.5 14.3% 10.7% 26.2% 40.5% 2.2%
April 27 79.4 82.6 .496 10.3 5.8% 3.8% 12.5% 18.3% 0.8%

Amongst AL groups, solely the 24.5% drop (from 30.5% to six%) of the White Sox is bigger. Seattle nonetheless has a significantly better likelihood than Chicago, however with out Ray, the workforce’s highway to October received’t get any simpler.