The SF Giants bolstered the front of the rotation by acquiring Robbie Ray in a three-player move with the Seattle Mariners. For the Giants, Ray's pitching style goes against the grain in a lot of ways and some of those ways are not necessarily bad.
Why Robbie Ray's pitching style goes against the grain for the SF Giants
It should be noted that the veteran pitcher is still recovering from Tommy John surgery that was performed in May of 2023. The recovery timeline ranges from 12 - 18 months and the Giants plan on him being available at some point in 2024.
So, while they have him penciled into the starting rotation, they are aware that he will not be ready by Opening Day. The Giants are still surveying the market for rotation help, but if they do not make anymore notable additions, they will be putting a lot of faith in their younger pitchers.
On a positive note, Ray strikes out more batters than a typical Giants pitcher. The lefty pitcher has recorded an 11.03 K/9 rate and 28.9 percent strikeout rate since he debuted in 2014. The K/9 is the third-highest mark during that time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings.
On the other hand, the Giants do not normally tally high strikeout totals as they registered an 8.53 K/9 and a 22.5 percent strikeout rate in 2023. The league posted a 22.7 percent strikeout rate last year, so the Giants hovered right around league average in that regard.
Strikeouts are nice but the Giants do rely on ground balls as a way to generate outs. They had the highest ground ball rate in baseball at 48.7 percent in 2023. Ground balls are great because they do not translate to hits at a high rate like line drives, but they do fall for hits. Sometimes, those hits even go for extra bases.
On the other hand, strikeouts never fall for hits. Despite the fact that Ray's batted-ball profile leans more into fly balls, the margin for error is lower because fewer players put the ball in play.
On the other hand, the 32-year-old pitcher is more prone to the long ball and gives up walks at a higher rate than many Giants pitchers. The Giants pitching staff was second in baseball with a 1.09 HR/9 rate and led baseball with a 2.53 BB/9 ratio and a 6.7 percent walk rate. They are stingy at giving up home runs and walks.
Unfortunately, Ray is not quite as stingy. The lefty pitcher has tallied a 1.38 HR/9 rate and that number has trended up in recent years. In 10 seasons, he has recorded a 3.81 BB/9 rate and a 10.0 percent walk rate. Both of these marks are comfortably above the 2023 league average rates of 3.30 BB/9, and an 8.6 percent walk rate.
So, Ray's style of pitching will go against the grain compared to the rest of the rotation. That said, few pitchers can rack up strikeout totals quite like he can. And, it is one of the reasons why he has flashed Cy Young upside in the past and the Giants hope that he can return somewhere near that form again.