As a high school senior, Robbie threw thee no-hitters, including a 5-inning perfect game.
Ray has a bit of a mean competitive streak. He fouled out of all but one of his high school basketball games, and lost a perfect game in high school after he threw at the other team.
In 2010, Ray signed with the Nationals (see Transactions below).
In 2011, Baseball America rated Ray as the 15th-best prospect in the Nationals' organization. He was at #17 in the winter before 2012 spring training, and at #18 early in 2013.
After coming to the Tigers, the book had Robbie at 4th-best in the Detroit farm system heading into 2014 spring training. Then, in the spring of 2015, they ranked Robbie at #7.
But by the time the book was published, Ray had been traded to the D'Backs, and was rated 11th-best in Arizona's organization.
In 2014, Ray went 1-1, 2.45 with a 1.36 WHIP in 11 innings of work in the AFL. Ray left the Arizona Fall League early to get married on Nov. 7.
Ray got the call of his life in 2014 when the Tigers were in need of a starting pitcher because Anibal Sanchez had to be placed on the disabled list. Ray went 1-4 in nine appearances for the Tigers, including six starts.
Though his ERA left a lot to be desired (it was 8.16), Ray impressed the scouts in the Diamondbacks organization. So, when the D-backs were gearing up to trade shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees, they made their move to acquire Ray from the Tigers, the third team involved in the deal.
The D-backs thought they were getting a great pitcher in the deal, but they didn't know they were getting a team lifer. Ray's mom tweeted out a photo of her son from way back in Little League ... when he was also a D-backs pitcher, wearing his Little League D-backs uniform. (Bertha - mlb.com - 3/1/15)
In 2017, Ray was chosen to represent the Diamondbacks in his first MLB All-Star game.
July 13, 2017: Ray found himself looking around the NL clubhouse at the All-Star Game and just taking it all in.
"Being in that clubhouse with all those guys, a lot of big-name guys, it was humbling, it was exciting, and I enjoyed every minute of it," Ray said. "I don't even know if there's a word to describe it, really. It was just really, really awesome. I just kind of soaked it all in, sat at my locker, looked around and saw all the big-name guys. To be in that room with those guys, it was something special." (S Gilbert - MLB.com - July 15, 2017)
July 28, 2017: Ray was back resting at the team hotel after taking a line drive off the left side of his head. Cardinals first baseman Luke Voit hit a ball 108 mph that hit Ray flush in the head and careened into foul ground by third base, where Daniel Descalso made a diving play on it for the out.
Ray immediately dropped to the ground holding his head as D-backs medical personnel tended to him. Arizona infielders and Voit surrounded the mound and took a knee. Trainers held a towel to the side of Ray's head where there was blood.
"It happened so fast," Descalso said. "I knew the ball hit Robbie somewhere and popped up in the air, and I just went after it, caught it and then tried to go check on him as fast as I could. Everything happened so fast, I didn't realize it hit him in the head."
Ray was moved into a sitting position and then helped onto a motorized cart. The crowd at Busch Stadium gave him a standing ovation, and he waved in appreciation.
"Those are things you never forget," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "I got out there and he was on his back and his eyes were open. That was the first thing that I saw, and I was very grateful for that. Knowing he was able to answer questions and [assistant athletic trainer Ryan DiPanfilo] got out there as fast as he could. I knew we were in good hands."
Ray underwent a CT scan at a local hospital, which checked out well according to Lovullo, and needed some stitches in his head. Ray then returned to the ballpark to shower before heading back to the team hotel. Ray was entered into MLB's concussion protocol.
It was an emotional night for the D-backs, who were more worried about the health of their teammate than the loss. Reliever Archie Bradley was one of those most affected. He was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez two years ago. And he was sitting in the bullpen when Ray got hit.
"It made me sick to my stomach," Bradley said. "Heart started beating fast, stomach started hurting. Especially when you're that close with a guy, baseball really goes out the window. Robbie's got a family, wife and a kid watching the game at home, and that's where my head was. You forget about the game. You forget about everything else. "I was just kind of waiting to hear what the word and status of Robbie was."
Voit was visibly shaken by what had happened, and he stayed near the pitcher's mound until Ray was put on the cart. He had to change his jersey before the start of the next inning because he had gotten Ray's blood on it when he gave him a hug. This is not the first time this year that Voit has seen a pitcher get hit in head. He was a teammate of Daniel Ponce de Leon at Triple-A Memphis when Ponce de Leon was struck in the head by a line drive and had to have surgery to relieve the pressure around his brain.
"I sent him a tweet and [send] best wishes to his family and friends," Voit said. "It's scary. Role reversal, that could happen to me when I'm being pitched to. I just hope he can continue pitching for the rest of the year. It's a scary situation. I don't wish that on anyone." The D-backs were relieved when word was passed through the dugout and bullpen late in the game that Ray was doing well. (S Gilbert - MLB.com - July 29, 2017)
Randy Johnson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and accepted a position in the Diamondbacks’ organization as Special Assistant to the President. Upon assuming this position, Johnson told Call to the Pen that he planned to visit minor league prospects and begin a mentoring process.
One candidate was Ray, who started the 2015 season with nine starts for Reno. This was the period where an association with Johnson began to flourish, and the ability to communicate and gain experience from the Hall of Famer increased value. As he prepares to open his season behind opening day starter Patrick Corbin, Ray told Call to the Pen that the time with Johnson remains on an equal plane of education and stimulation.
“It wasn’t anything about pitch-wise, and mechanics-wise,” Ray said of his early conversations with Johnson. “It was more mentality, and about going out every day. He told me you never know what game could be your last game. And, you’re never know when you’ll pitch your best game until you do it. It’s about going out and giving everything you have like it’s your last game.”
That sense of urgency began to resonate with Ray, who took the attitude and approach of capturing every moment in time. Johnson’s words rang with purpose, and Ray told Call to the Pen he never puts anything in the Hall of Famer on the back burner.
“His words hit home with me,” Ray said. “This game is so short. Your time compared to the rest of your life is so short. You want to make as much an impact as you can. Yes, Randy has been pretty big in personal mentality and how you go about your business day-by-day. When he speaks, people listen, and he’ll never just talk the talk. I’m always listening to him and always looking to pick his brain a little. This will only help my career.” (Mark Brown-Fansided-March 28, 2018)
After the 2018 season, Robbie and his wife, Taylor, traveled to London, Paris, Florence, and Rome. They met up with teammate Zack Greinke and his wife for dinner in Rome.
Robbie met Taylor when she was a singer in Nashville and they had a mutual friend that invited them out to celebrate their birthdays. He proposed in front of a wishing well after tossing a penny into the well and, when she asked what he wished for, he proposed.
They have two children, Asher and Leighton.
A decade ago, Mookie Betts had stiff competition for the title of best power hitter on his Nashville-area travel ball team.
“I was our three- or four-hole hitter,” Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray said. “I would hit like a homer a game or sometimes two or three homers.”
Ray laughs when he considers how much has changed. Betts is now the top hitter in the Red Sox lineup and the reigning American League MVP. Ray is a pitcher—and not an especially good-hitting one, either.
“It’s crazy how quick you can lose it when you don’t practice enough,” Ray joked. (Nick Piecoro and Mark Faller, Arizona Republic—April 6, 2019)
In 1998, Robbie was at Busch Stadium as a fan when Mark McGwire hit his 60th home run.
Dec 14, 2021: The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voted Pitcher of the Year and Most Improved Player: LHP Robbie Ray.
Ray was the unanimous winner as Pitcher of the Year, an easy choice after the left-hander won the AL Cy Young Award. He was also named the Most Improved Player, given that he bounced back from a 6.62 ERA in 2020 to become one of the game’s top pitchers in ’21. Ray posted a 2.84 ERA, striking out a Major League-high 248 batters over 193 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays. On Dec. 1, Ray signed a five-year, $115 million deal with the Mariners. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Dec 14, 20210
June 2010: Robbie signed with the Nationals for a bonus of $799,000 after they chose him in the 12th round, out of Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee. That pulled him away from a commitment to the University of Arkansas on the last day before the August 16 deadline. Paul Faulk is the scout who signed him.
December 2, 2013: The Tigers sent RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals; acquiring LHP Ian Krol, 2B Steve Lombardozzi, and Ray.
December 4, 2014: The Yankees acquired Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that also involved the Tigers. RHP Shane Greene was traded from the Yankees to Detroit. Arizona received Robbie Ray and minor league infielder Domingo Leyba from the Tigers.
Jan 12, 2018: Ray and the D-backs avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $3.9 million.
Jan 11, 2019: Ray and the D-backs avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $6 million.
Jan 10, 2020: Ray and the D-backs avoided arbitration, by agreeing to a $9.4 million deal.
Aug 31, 2020: The Diamondbacks traded LHP Robbie Ray and cash to the Blue Jays for LHP Travis Bergen.
Oct 28, 2020: Ray elected free agency.
Nov. 7, 2020: Ray signed with the Blue Jays, a one-year deal worth $8 million.
Nov 3, 2021: Ray chose free agency.
- Nov 29, 2021: The Mariners signed Ray to a five-year deal worth $115 million with an opt out after the third season.
|DOB:||10/1/1991||Agent:||The Legacy Agency|
|Birth City:||Brentwood, TN|
|Draft:||Nationals #12 - 2010 - Out of high school (TN)|
Ray has an 92-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL with good tailing action, and a 92-97 mph 2-seam SINKER with good natural sinking movement. He has a 82-85 mph short slurvy-SLIDER that has some depth and is gaining more consistency. But too many are awkward-looking tumblers with loose spin, while his best ones are average.
He also has an 79-83 mph CURVEBALL he rarely shows. And, he has good feel for his late-fading 84-87 mph CHANGEUP—an average pitch (50 grade) to keep hitters off-balance. Robbie sells it with plus arm speed. (Feb., 2018)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 51.2% of the time; Sinker 19.4% of the time; Change 6.1%; Slider 17.3%; and Curve less than 5.5% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 56% of the time, his 2-seam Sinker 3.7% of the time; Changeup 1.3% of the time; Slider 20.2%; and Curve 19%.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 53.5% of the time; Sinker less than 1%; Slider 25.7%; and his Curve 20.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94 mph, Sinker 93.8, Slider 84.9, and Curve 82.9 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 43.8% of the time; Sinker 9%; Slider 31.7%; and his Curve 15.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.7 mph, Sinker 92.4, Slider 84.4, and Curve 81.8 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 51% of the time; Sinker 2.1%; Change less than 1%; Slider 30.8%; and his Curve 16% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.9 mph, Sinker 93.5, Change 88.6, Slider 86.8, and Curve 83.8 mph.
In 2011, Robbie worked with Hagerstown pitching coach Chris Michalak on finding a new grip on his changeup. He switched from a circle-change to a three-finger change with kind of a pitchfork grip. His slurves too often are tumblers with loose spin, rating as a 35 pitch. His best ones are near-average (a 45 grade), but the pitch still has a long way to go.
Ray's biggest problem: He doesn't have an out-pitch among his secondary offerings. His changeup is a good one, but lacks a reliable breaking pitch.
Robbie needed some tweaks to his delivery, and now he has decent command. He began incorporating his lower half in his delivery more, and that prevents his arm from dragging behind. But his arm still drags at times, causing his release point and command to be inconsistent, but he is a good athlete with a loose arm, prompting scouts to project his command as at least average.
- In 2012, Ray struggled with his command. Prior to his last start of the season, pitching coach Chris Michalak suggested Ray try something new—adding a slight hip turn as he raises his front leg and lifting his arm slot to what Ray called a "high three-quarters" release.
The adjustments felt natural enough to Ray, so he decided to stick with them in his offseason workouts and carried them over into the 2013 season. But he still had occasional lapses in command.
Scouts have questioned his pitching savvy.
Ray appeared more confident and aggressive on the mound in 2013.
In 2014, Ray jumped to Triple-A after just 11 starts at Double-A. He stood head and shoulders above any lefthander in the International League.
May 30, 2017: Robbie had his first career shutout as the D-backs only needed a few timely hits to win at PNC Park. But Ivan Nova was barely allowing them time to get settled, much less timely hits, as he cruised through five innings. Arizona finally broke through against Nova, supporting Ray's 115-pitch gem in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh.
"Anytime you throw a complete-game shutout, this being my first time, obviously there's that wow factor of, 'Man, that just happened,'" Ray said. "It was a lot of fun."
Ray won the pitchers' duel with his third straight scoreless start and ran his streak to 242 innings. The lefty struck out 10 without a walk and scattered four hits in the first complete game of his career. Ray also continued his dominance away from Chase Field, lowering his road ERA to 0.64 this season. (Berry - mlb.com)
September 4, 2017: Ray struck out 14 batters in 7.2 shutout innings, leading the Diamondbacks to a 13-0 win. Ray became the first player in MLB history with four 10-strikeout games in a season against the Dodgers.
Not only was Ray dominant on the mound, improving to 12-5 with a 2.80 ERA, he also drove in two runs to join Randy Johnson as the only other player in Diamondbacks history with at least 13 strikeouts and multiple RBIs in a game.
Robbie recorded his 600th career strikeout on April 18, 2018 vs. Giants, in 96 career games and 508.2 innings, the fastest in history by a left-handed pitcher in innings and third in games, trailing only Herb Score (87) and Frank Tanana (95) [STATS LLC].
May 8, 2019: Ray was certainly the early star, but he was long gone by the time Wilmer Flores singled in the eventual game-winning run in the 13th inning of the D-backs’ 3-2 victory against the Rays. Between the alpha and omega marched quite a long parade of relief, and the three elements worked together to wrap Arizona’s road trip on a high note at Tropicana Field.
“That had some characteristics of September baseball, no doubt about it,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We about got knocked out. We were at nine count in the corner, and we got to our feet, we straightened up, and we fought back, and we held off.”
It began with Ray’s 5.2 scoreless innings. Using a battle plan centered around a slippery slider Tampa Bay’s bats never could quite catch, Ray fanned a season-high 11 and permitted just four hits—none of them in the same frame. He walked three, uncorked a wild pitch and calmly navigated past any potential trouble.
In short, he did once again what he’s been doing all season.
“That’s probably the best my fastball command and off-speed command has been all year,” Ray said. “I was able to elevate when I wanted to, and curveball-slider plays really well off of those [pitches].” (D Klemish - MLB.com - May 8, 2019)
July 12, 2019: Why Ray is so attractive to would-be suitors was on display over his past two starts in which he has allowed a combined four hits and two runs in 12.1 innings.
“I think just getting ahead of guys, pounding the zone, and when I get ahead of guys putting them away, not letting them stay around too long,” Ray said. “I felt like I managed my pitch count early in this game and got a lot of weak contact. Even with guys on base I was able to get some weak contact ground balls, popups, and we were able to win so it was huge.”
Ray has pitched at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts, in large part because he’s avoided high pitch counts in the early innings.
“He had command of all his pitches, and he just continued on the attack,” catcher Carson Kelly said. “I think sometimes when they get a hit or two and things start to maybe speed up a little bit [but tonight] he shut that down right away and got back in the zone and executed. I think a lot of it is getting strike one, executing his pitches and he did a tremendous job of that. He was dialed in.”
Ray talks about his curveball: “My curveball used to be this big 12-6 looper. Now it’s kind of turned into a little bit of a power curve. Coming up through the minor leagues, I wasn’t what you’d call power pitcher. I was 88-91 [mph] and would touch 92. Good changeup. This big, looping curveball.
“As I started getting bigger, growing into my frame, the velo started to come and my curveball started getting tighter. Slowly, year by year, it started becoming more of a power curve to where I could throw it 85-86.
“I messed around with a lot of grips. I went with a traditional curve, then flipped around the baseball, on the horseshoe. Eventually I ended up … I throw a spiked curve now. That started around two or three years ago. It took me a little bit to get comfortable with it. I worked on it a lot in spring training , and while I used it from the beginning of that season, it might not have been exactly what it is now.
“I liked the way it felt coming out of my hand. With the spiked grip, all of the pressure was coming off the middle finger, whereas with a traditional grip you have the index finger on there as well. I feel like that kind of takes some of the speed off of it; it slows it down a little more. This way I’m just kind of ripping with the middle finger, while my pointer finger is there to … I wouldn’t say ‘guide it.’ It’s more that it’s just kind of resting on the ball.
“It’s funny: when you’re younger, you want everything to look nasty. You want your fastball to be hard, you want this big sweeping slider, and you want this big, looping curveball. Over time, you realize that you want everything to look the same. I want my pitches to come out of the same slot, stay on the same plane, and break at the last minute. Instead of flipping my curveball, I’m trying to drive it through the catcher.” (David Laurila - FANGRAPHS - March 4, 2019)
Sept 6, 2019: Ray recorded his 200th strikeout of the season.
July 24, 2020: Ray dropped weight this 2019-2020 offseason due to a change in diet and new workout regimen. He hopes an adjustment to his mechanics, shortened arm action, will pay off with better command.
Aug. 16, 2020: The 28-year old became one of the fastest lefthanded pitchers since 1913 to reach the 1,000 strikeouts, needing only 810 innings.
The fastest to reach the milestone was reliever Billy Wagner. The seven-time All-Star reached 1,000 strikeouts in 757.2 innings. It took Ray 154 games, whereas Diamondback legend Randy Johnson did it in 152 games. Clayton Kershaw is third on the list, reaching 1,000 strikeouts in 155 games.
Nov 10, 2020: “The power, the strikeouts, the 80 grade slider, he has shown the ability to dominate,” said Blue Jay's general manager Ross Atkins. “There have been times where he has been dominant, and last year was a tough run, especially the first half for him. It felt like he had gotten back closer to that 2017-2018 performer towards the end of the season and was very effective in his time with us.”
Behind door No. 1 is the 2017 Ray, an All-Star who went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA for the D-backs, establishing himself as one of the game's brightest young lefthanded starters. Behind door No. 2 is the 2020 Ray, with a 6.62 ERA and serious control issues. Toronto will learn in 2021 which version of Ray it has added. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Nov 10, 2020)
2020 Season: The season looked to be an important one for hard-throwing southpaw Robbie Ray. The 28 year old was entering his final year before free agency, having been one of the more effective starting pitchers from 2015-2019. His team, the Diamondbacks, were a fringe playoff contender anticipating a step forward from an 85-win campaign in 2019, when they signed Madison Bumgarner and traded for Starling Marte.
Ray, armed with a new and what he hoped to be improved pitching motion, hoped to be an integral part of the winning product with a potentially lucrative trip to free agency to follow. In practice, however, things did not go as planned. The Diamondbacks finished the 2020 season as a last place team, and Ray found himself a new home after getting dealt to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, and then signing a one year deal early in the offseason to remain in Toronto—for a mere $8 million.
The Jays were not looking for Ray to make them immediately better. To that point, he was pitching to a 7.84 ERA/7.30 FIP/6.41 xFIP. Rather, they were betting on his upside. Though his run prevention had been, to that point, not good, a few things remained encouraging. His four-seam fastball velocity was up to 93.9 mph from 92.4 in 2019; a career low. Additionally, despite the increased amount of runs scored at Ray’s expense, he largely maintained his ability to miss bats. What hurt him the most this past season was his absurdly high walk rate.
But after a start in which the results trended in the opposite direction, Ray completely abandoned the changes on August 26—right before he was traded—and while he wasn’t exactly lights out after the change, the results were markedly better. The walks are still a problem, but it appears that Ray was somewhat able to harness his old ways.
If Robbie’s early season troubles were indeed caused by his failure to get a good feel for his new mechanics, and he is able to recapture his previous form, then the Blue Jays grabbed a solid No. 3 starter for the far below retail price of $8 million. At worst, he can at least provide league average-ish innings in bulk for an interesting Jays team that looks to compete for a playoff spot once again in 2021. (Brian_Menendez@briantalksbsb - Dec 18, 2020)
April 12, 2021: Ray was himself in his season debut against the Yankees, dancing out of trouble and flashing the dominant potential that makes him one of the most important variables on this Blue Jays roster.
“That was one of the bright things about the way [Ray] pitched,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He looked the same. He was around the zone. His stuff was really good. It was great to see Robbie Ray pitching like that. It makes me feel really good. Not only me, the whole team.”
The good news is that the top end of Ray’s stuff was sharp over his five innings of two-run ball. His fastball averaged 94.7 mph with a peak of 96.4 mph, according to Statcast, complete with the trademark grunt that’s suddenly a little more noticeable in the quiet confines of TD Ballpark. Ray got whiffs on his curveball and slider, too; his only glaring mistake was a fastball right down the pipe that Kyle Higashioka launched for a two-run homer. Ray’s control, on the other hand, is what he had to overcome most innings. His walks and ability to get strikes early in counts will always be the difference between him just teasing his high-end ceiling and actually reaching it.
Ray took the edge off his three walks by forcing two double plays. Throughout his strong Spring Training, he was encouraged that his misses were at least near the zone as opposed to being wild. The 45 walks he posted in just 51.2 innings in 2020 between the D-backs and Blue Jays clearly won’t cut it. But if he can live closer to a rate of 4.0 walks per nine innings, that’s when we’ll see him at his best. Back in 2017, when he posted a 2.89 ERA as one of the best lefties in baseball, his walk rate was 3.9 per nine innings.(K Matheson - MLB.com - April 12, 2021)
- June 8, 2021: Ray logged 6 1/3 innings and 13 strikeouts in Toronto’s 6-1 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field. It didn’t result in a win, but it was the best Ray has looked all season. Montoyo’s pride in his starter was palatable during the postgame Zoom call.
As the game unfolded, Ray became more dominant. He didn’t walk a batter among the 25 he faced as he racked up over a dozen strikeouts for the fourth time in his career. Ray has made drastic improvements to his walk rate that soared to 17.9% in 51 2/3 innings last season, while he’s worked to below 6% this season in over 60 innings. The improvement to his command in the zone can be attributed to his confidence in his slider, which topped 92 mph against the White Sox, according to Statcast.
"It's just continued comfortability with it. I think I'm just feeling better and better with it each outing,” Ray said. “So I think it's just trusting it, trusting when I throw it, it's gonna do what I want it to do. I think that's kind of added into the velocity, it's just having that trust.”
As of the start of the 2021 season, Robbie had a career record of 49-51 with a 4.26 ERA, 1,042 strike outs, having allowed 765 hits and 123 home runs in 842 innings.
Aug. 25, 2021: Robbie became the first lefty in Blue Jays history to record 14 strikeouts in a game, and just the fifth pitcher in team history to do so, joining Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Pat Hentgen, and Brandon Morrow on the list.
Sept 2, 2021: Ray was named AL Pitcher of the Month for August, 2021.
Ray made six August starts for Toronto, which is trying to grab an AL Wild Card spot. While a lack of run support led to a mere 1-0 record, Ray certainly did his part. The left-hander pitched 41 innings with a 1.76 ERA, going at least six innings and allowing no more than two runs in each outing. Opponents batted .188 with a .478 OPS against him, and he struck out 52 batters -- including three straight double-digit performances to end the month -- while walking only eight.
Ray’s gems included holding the AL East-rival Red Sox scoreless for six innings on Aug. 7 and limiting the AL Central-leading White Sox to one run over seven innings while striking out 14 on Aug. 25.
This is the first monthly award for Ray, whose vastly improved control has propelled him into AL Cy Young Award candidacy this year. The 29-year-old, who is set to reach free agency this winter, is 10-5 with a 2.71 ERA, 202 strikeouts and a 5.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first full season with the Blue Jays. (A Simon - MLB.com - Sept 2, 2021)
2021 Season: Robbie Ray had a fantastic season. In 193.1 innings pitched, he had an ERA of 2.84 and a FIP of 3.69, nice. He also had a K/9 of 11.54 and a K% of 32.1%, meaning he struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced. Robbie Ray has always had the potential to be a Cy Young winning pitcher (look at 2017), but what has held him back until this season was his astronomical BB/9.
Ray had a great K/9 of 11.1 up until this season, but his 4.3 BB/9 really hindered his ability from solidifying himself in the Cy Young race, minus his All-Star season in 2017. In 2020, he finished with a BB/9 of 7.84 and before arriving to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, that BB/9 was an astronomical 9.0 with Arizona.
This changed in 2021 as he posted a BB/9 of 2.47, by far the lowest in his career. (October 14, 2021 - Brennan Dailey)
- Nov. 17, 2021: Toronto Blue Jays lefty Robbie Ray won a most improbable AL Cy Young Award, bouncing back from taking a rare pay cut after a dismal season to capture pitching’s top prize. Ray became the first Toronto pitcher to earn the honor since the late Roy Halladay in 2003.
it was a fitting end to a career year that saw the left-hander skyrocket from depth starter to the Blue Jays’ ace.
Ray received 29 first-place votes (207 total points) from BBWAA voters, edging out the Yankees' Gerrit Cole, who finished second with 123 points, and Lance Lynn of the White Sox, who finished third with 48. Right-hander José Berríos, who has agreed to terms on a seven-year, $131 million extension with the Blue Jays, pending a physical, finished ninth in AL voting.
With a 2.84 ERA over 193 1/3 innings, including a league-high 248 strikeouts, Ray was one of baseball’s most dominant players in ’21. After dramatically cutting his walk rate (2.4 BB/9) from prior seasons, Ray attacked the zone with his fastball-slider combination, routinely overpowering hitters. To watch Ray was to understand how it looks when a pitcher works confidently on the mound.
As the Cy Young hype built through August and September, Ray was hesitant to discuss the individual award, but he’s allowed to exhale now that the votes have been tallied. In classic Ray fashion, though, he’s already thinking ahead to what’s next. “It feels great to talk about it now that I’ve won the actual award,” Ray said. “I’m super excited. I’m just looking to build on top of this, honestly, to keep getting better every single day and push forward to even greater things.”
This wasn’t the season anyone projected for Ray, though. Ray originally joined the Blue Jays via trade in August 2020, and soon rejoined the Blue Jays in free agency last offseason on a one-year, $8 million deal. The Blue Jays liked what they saw from Ray down the stretch, but the left-hander was still coming off a season in which he’d led baseball in walks. For a team prioritizing strike throwing, it seemed a counterintuitive fit, but every inch of upside the Blue Jays envisioned paid off.
On the AL side, Ray won the Cy Young Award coming off a 6.62 ERA in 2020. In the NL, Corbin Burnes won after pitching to an 8.82 ERA back in ’19. Ray gives a great deal of credit to a change in his delivery to focus on his “coil” action, getting him back to his 2012-era mechanics, but that’s only half of the equation that helped him achieve such a sudden rise.
“It’s perseverance, being able to push through those adversities," Ray said. "Mentally, I’m as tough as anyone. I feel like I put almost too much pressure on myself to be excellent every time I go out there. As far as that, the mindset was always there, it was just about putting the physical stuff with the mindset.”
It’s difficult to overstate the value of Ray to the Blue Jays’ run in 2021, which saw Toronto (91-71) fall just short of the postseason on the final day of play. Ray, Steven Matz, Ross Stripling and Tanner Roark were projected to provide some steady depth innings behind ace Hyun Jin Ryu, but that didn’t go according to plan. While Matz pitched well, Roark was released in early May and Ryu’s numbers regressed, ending with a 4.37 ERA over 169 innings.
It was Ray who stepped up, pitching with a remarkable level of consistency -- especially for a starter whose incredible physical talent had been derailed by inconsistencies and control at points in his career. By the second half of the season, the 30-year-old Ray felt like a lock to give the Blue Jays six to seven innings with 10 strikeouts. Ray’s 193 1/3 innings topped the AL in ’21, just ahead of Berríos’ 192.
The Blue Jays clearly didn't lack high-end talent, but they're now tasked with retaining two of their finest in Ray and Semien, both of whom are free agents. Ray was already one of the most attractive free agents on the market with his 2021 performance and upside, and this Cy Young honor adds another impressive line to his resume.
“Toronto is still in the conversation,” Ray said. “We’re still talking to Toronto on a daily basis. That’s just kind of where we’re at, but also we’re testing the free agent market. Like I said, this is a fun time. This is fun for me and my family to go through this process and we’re really enjoying it.”
This is the first Cy Young Award won by a Blue Jays pitcher since Roy Halladay back in 2003, when he posted a 3.25 ERA over 266 innings in his 22-win season. Roger Clemens won the award in each of his seasons with the Blue Jays (1997-98), and the year prior, Pat Hentgen (’96) won the first in the organization’s history. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Nov 17, 2021)
June 2-11, 2014: Ray was on the D.L.
July 29-August 24, 2017: The Diamondbacks placed Ray on the 7-day concussion disabled list one day after he was hit in the head by a line drive against the Cardinals.
April 30-June 27, 2018: The D-backs placed Ray on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right oblique.
Aug 14, 2019: Robbie Ray left his start against the Rockies at Coors Field before pitching the bottom of the third inning due to lower back spasms. The left-hander appeared to wince following a warmup throw between frames.
Aug 15-25, 2019: Ray was on the IL with right lower back spasm.
March 22, 2021: Ray fell while going down a set of stairs and bruised his left elbow, Atkins announced. The Blue Jays will be cautious and expect him to miss his final Grapefruit League start, but are expecting him to be ready for the opening series against the Yankees.
However, Ray began the season with a short stint on the IL.
March 29-April 11, 2021: Ray was on the IL. He's dealing with a bruised left elbow and is expected to miss at least the first start of the regular season.