Has Robbie Ray Earned a Spot in Diamondbacks’ 2016 Rotation?


September 22, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray (38) pitches the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Ray tossed six shutout innings last night as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by a score of 8-0. While beating the Dodgers for the second straight evening is big news, the real story was Ray who allowed only three hits and two walks in lowering his ERA to 3.53 on the season. In four September starts, Ray is 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA. With only Patrick Corbin certain for the 2016 rotation, the question is has Ray done enough to warrant a a spot as well?

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In 21 starts in 2015, Ray owns a 5-12 record. That number is a bit deceptive as his ERA indicates. However, in those 21 starts the lefty has pitched only 117 1/3 innings, or less than six innings per outing. He has gone seven innings in only two of his appearances. Though he has a solid ERA in September, he has thrown only 20 2/3 innings. Part of the reason is the number of pitches he expends in each of his outings. The soon-to-be 24-year old Ray threw 101 pitches last night, not a terrible number for six innings of work. However, in his previous start Ray logged an astonishing 102 pitches in only 4 2/3 innings. His 108 strikeouts are a nice number but he pairs that with 46 walks which may not seem like a really high number until you split it by month. In June and July he issued only 17 free passes but in August and September he has given up 29.

Those are the negatives. On the positive side Ray has allowed 107 hits, less than a hit per inning and eight home runs, a pretty low number for Chase Field. Despite the number of early exits, Ray in most cases does not seem to allow the one catastrophic inning that puts the D-backs in a precarious position. Then there are those numbers against the D-backs’ most intense rivals, the Dodgers. Arizona has only six victories in 17 games against Los Angeles. Ray owns two of those wins and sports a 2.28 ERA in four starts.

It is obvious that the D-backs’ front office values the upside of Ray as they acquired him in the three team deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the New York Yankees. However, he needs to be able to have better command and stop being a five or six inning pitcher if he wants to remain a viable Major League starter. While I don’t think he has done enough to be considered a lock for the rotation for next year, I think Ray earns a spot with a good, not necessarily great Spring Training. If he can limit the walks in Cactus League play, he will be a part of the starting five.