The Astros have a need at starting pitcher this offseason. Oh, look, the Yankees are probably going to trade a former ace soon.
Before you groan and complain how the Astros shouldn’t trade for Sonny Gray, I think there is a compelling, or at least mildly interesting, case for the argument. It is also the type of move that Houston’s front office has thrived on since Jeff Luhnow became the general manager in 2011. A reclamation project, if you will.
One reason why a team like the Astros should show interest in Gray: He has had success in the past, and the right-hander is only 29-years old. For a starting pitcher, 29-years old isn’t all that old. His average pitch velocity has varied in recent years, but the changes are relatively close.
Now, the Yankees did alter Gray’s pitch usage during the past two seasons. Sheryl Ring of FanGraphs had a post here back in late April that broke down the notable decrease in Gray’s fastball and sinker usage. Jeff Sullivan, also of FanGraphs, had a post early in the 2018 season here that highlights how the Yankees are throwing less and less fastballs. The subsequent results speak for themselves.
In 2015 with the A’s, Gray finished his season with a 2.73 ERA and 3.45 FIP. He threw a variation of a fastball, excluding a sinker, 39% of the time. Fast forward to 2018 and the same pitch usage drops to 27.3%. While it is lazy and irresponsible to make any definitive claims based on such limited data, I’d like to believe that a correlation between pitch usage and his results are possible, if not likely.