Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 3, Jon Gray (4.0 rWAR)
The last time we saw Jon Gray’s name in 2018 was on the NL Wild Card roster against the Cubs. The last time we saw Jon Gray pitch in 2018 was September 29 in a 12-2 rout by the Washington Nationals. Going into that game, the Rockies had a one game lead over the Dodgers; coming out of it, they were tied again. After being left off the NLDS roster, it could be safe to say that 2018 was arguably the roughest year of Gray’s career.
However, Gray took charge to right the ship and booked a flight to Washington state -- home of Driveline. Adam Ottavino also spent time at Driveline after his disappointing 2017 season, which helped him become one of the best relievers in the league in 2018. After stripping down and rebuilding his game, Gray came back with a vengeance in 2019. He wanted to do that in 2018 after the disappointing Wild Card start in Arizona, but he was much more successful in 2019.
Beginning as early as Spring Training, a new Jon Gray emerged. He struck out more batters and allowed fewer walks, only allowing two home runs that both came in his final start. He posted his lowest Spring Training ERA (3.48), WHIP (0.92), and opponent average (.208). He mentioned that he was “too pissed off to not be good,” and Jon Gray was good.
Gray made 25 starts during the regular season. He lost his first three decisions, but most of those came during the Rockies’ 3-12 start and he just wasn’t getting any run support. Two days after German Márquez threw his one hitter in San Francisco, Gray earned his first win against the San Diego Padres. He pitched seven innings and only gave up a solo home run, which seemed to be a signature of his. In fact, the first time that he didn’t allow home runs in back-to-back games came in June when he went four starts without allowing one. His final start on August 16 was his most dominant — eight innings, five hits, no runs, and seven strikeouts on 100 pitches. Unfortunately, Jon Gray’s revenge tour was cut short by a fractured left foot.
In total, Jon Gray threw 150 innings and posted the best ERA amongst the Rockies’ starting pitchers (3.84). Only Scott Oberg (2.25) and Carlos Estévez (3.75) had better ERA’s, and the three of them were the only Rockies’ pitchers to post ERA’s under four. He also posted 150 strikeouts, second only to German Márquez’ 175 in 174 innings. While not necessarily career highs (career seconds in most cases), it was still a marked and noticeable improvement from 2018. The Gray Wolf was hungry in 2019 and he turned a corner, delivering almost every time he stepped on the mound. The lessons of Driveline seemed to really help Gray turn the corner from the 2017 Wild Card Game, so hopefully he will take the success of 2019 and keep howling in 2020.