In part thirteen of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at righty reliever Chris Ray… THE FIGHTIN’ VIOLENT DELIVERY!
Ray didn’t pitch in the majors at all last year, and got in only 9 games in the minors while recovering from Tommy John surgery. I was expecting a nice bounce-back season from Ray this year, projecting 50 IP and a 4.10 ERA.
April was not kind, as Ray put up a 6.14 ERA in 7.1 IP. May was worse, at 12.38 in 8 IP. At the end of that month, Ray was sent down to Triple-A. He pitched well there, striking out 13 in 12 IP with only 4 BB and 0 HR. Ray was brought back up near the end of June, but only made it into 6 games (with a 9.00 ERA) before heading to the DL. After a quick (3 IP, 0 R) stop in Double-A, Ray came back to the O’s for good. He pitched very well in August – 2.12 ERA, 17 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 11 K – but gave up 3 home runs in 5 IP in September/October (good for a 16.20 ERA).
Overall, Ray finished with an 0-4 record and a 7.27 ERA in 43.1 IP. His strike-out rate of 8.1 K/9 was pretty good, but below where it was back in 2007 (9.28 K/9). The control didn’t come back either, as he usually sat in the 3.8 BB/9 area before his injury and was at 4.8 BB/9 this year. The 1.7 HR/9 was also a big issue, but part of that was a high 14.3% HR/FB rate. So while his FIP 5.36, his expected FIP (normalizing that home run rate) was a more manageable 4.47. Plus, Ray had a .402 BABIP, which certainly didn’t help his ERA.
The velocity on Ray’s fastball hasn’t come back yet, as it average about 94 mph this year compared with about 96 mph in 2007. He was able to get a lot of movement on it though, almost as if it was part way between a four-seamer and a sinker. Contrary to what one might expect coming off a major injury, Ray went to his slider a lot this year (almost 30% of the time) despite it not having a lot of movement on it. He also mixed in a change-up that had good sink but not a lot of tail. It might behoove Ray to use his fastball a little more next year. Perhaps it would help him throw more strikes, while also getting a few groundballs.
Ray will be going into his second year of arbitration this off-season (out of four – he was a super-two), but with his rough ’09 I doubt he’ll be paid much more than $1-2 M. Especially since he was a below replacement level player this year, at -0.2 WAR. I still think he can be a quality late-inning reliever, but he probably isn’t going to be closing next year unless he starts out on a roll.
Photo by Keith Allison.