It’s hard to tell what the Rangers have in Jon Gray. But whatever they have, they have him for three more seasons. So, as they build a rotation from scratch, he is the one guy whose name they can write in permanent ink on the whiteboard.
If, come next season, his name is at the top of their rotation list, the Rangers will have failed to improve enough.
Gray is a good number-four or number-five starter. He’s not a guy, for instance, you’d want to run out in Game 1 or Game 2 of a playoff series. Certainly not a best of three, where every game is critically important. And if you are tied one game apiece, he’s not a guy you would want to give the ball to with everything on the line.
He’d be the Game 4 guy, or a guy you’d shift to the bullpen in the playoffs and ride his arm there. Pitching like that are very valuable. Playoff teams need them.
But they need Game 1 and Game 2 starters first and foremost. And Gray is not that. Not that there’s any shame in that, but he’s not that guy.
What Gray is, assuming he can stay healthy for 2023, is a good back end of the rotation starter you can count on to keep you in a game. Those deep rotation arms are the kinds of pitchers that get you over .500 and help you pile up the Ws. When you have no truly weak links in the rotation is when you can say you are playoff bound.
Gray’s lifetime ERA is 4.50. Most of that came from Colorado. He’s been better this year with the Rangers, putting up a 3.80 ERA in twenty one starts. Because he’s had a revolving door to the I.L., when he does get a start, he is treated as if he’s bubble wrapped. He’s not allowed to go deep into games and throw too many pitches. So, a Jon Gray start lately is really just a glorified bullpen game.
That’s not being critical of him. They want to keep him on the mound. But he’s not on the mound very long when he is on the mound. His last two starts were 4.1 innings and 3.2 innings.
In only four of his twenty-one starts has he pitched seven innings. He’s averaging 5.1. Those numbers are deceptive because he’s been injured so much and protected with pitch counts.
Which leads to back to the beginning. It’s hard to tell what the Rangers have in Jon Gray.
But at least what they have, they can win with. Which you can’t say about any other pitcher they signed for next year.