Who thought Jon Gray was an ace? Who thought Jon Gray was even a number one starter?
When the Rangers signed Gray in the offseason to a four-year contract for $56, they were making the ex-Rockie right-hander the centerpiece of their rotation for years to come.
Yes, he had been among the National League leaders in innings pitched since he became a full-time major leaguer ijn 2016. His ERA+ in that time was 108, meaning he was slightly better than average.
But for a number one starter, you’d want slightly better than average. Especially when you realize Gray was an oddity in that he actually pitched better at Coors Field than anywhere else. Now, he gets four years of pitching anywhere else but Coors.
It’s true, he has had a sprinkling of success here and there. In 2017 he went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA. And in 2019 he was 11-8 with a 3.84. But he’s also thrown up some clunkers, like in 2020.
The bottom line is, Gray has always been competently inconsistent. Rarely stellar. Rarely another but an innings eater. This year for the Rangers, weird injuries and ineffectiveness have prevented him from doing even that. In nine starts with Texas, Gray has managed to pitch into the sixth inning only three times.
That’s not an ace. That’s not a number one. In fact, his 5.28 ERA is the fourth-worst among the five starters in the Rangers rotation. Only Taylor Hearn’s 5.40 is worse. Only Glenn Otto has fewer innings pitched in the rotation, and Otto joined late.
Maybe Gray can turn it around. Maybe he can find the consistency he had in 2017. Maybe the same light that clicked on in Martin Perez will click on in Gray.
Maybe he is the rotation equivalent of Semien and Seager. High profile offseason signings who are struggling in their first year with the Rangers. Semien seems to be turning it around. Maybe Gray can.
He had that one promising seven-inning start his last time out against Tampa Bay, where he allowed just one earned run, struck out 12 and gave up just three hits. That was the Jon Gray the Rangers were hoping they were going to get.
Yesterday, the Jon Gray they got showed up. Again. Five innings, five earned runs, six walks, just a mess of an outing.
That’s the Gray that has taken the mound more often than not for Texas. The Rangers hope that’s not the Jon Gray for the next four years. Instead of Gray eating inning, the Rangers will be eating salary.