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Jon Gray: “My changeup makes me happy”

The Gray Wolf finally has a changeup that is working for him

Since Jon Gray was drafted in 2013, he has been a bit of an enigma. His stats have been all over the place and seem to vary greatly from year-to-year. However, in a down year for the Rockies, he has proven to be a bright spot. After a disappointing season in 2020, Gray has bounced back and pitched himself thus far to a 7-9 record (3rd behind Germán Márquez and Austin Gomber) and a 3.93 ERA (2nd among qualified players, behind Márquez). So what’s been different for Jon Gray in 2021 that has him replicating his 2019 results?

“I think some of it’s a better mix,” Gray said. “I think that we’ve used a curveball more, and especially the changeup. The changeup has been big. Looking back on games that have gone well, the changeup is used a lot so it’s something I may have to go back to and start using more.”

So far in 2021, Gray has utilized his changeup just 9.4% of the time, down from 13.1% in 2020. But the velocity is up on it as well, as it is on all of his pitches. Gray mentioned “wanting the velo to go up” as one of his goals coming into 2021, since it took a sharp dip in 2020, especially since fastball velocity helps offspeed velocity.

Jon Gray Pitch Velo

Pitch 2019 2020 2021
Pitch 2019 2020 2021
Four-Seam Fastball 96 94 94.8
Slider 88.3 86.3 86.7
Changeup 86.7 86.5 87.5
Curveball 78.8 77.8 76

As has been a career trend (except for 2020), Gray is pitching much better at Coors than on the road. He boasts a 5-3 record, 3.27 ERA and 1.09 WHIP at home versus a 2-6 record, 4.69 ERA and 1.51 WHIP away. The secret?

“Well here I just try to attack the plate as much as I can and not get behind guys, so maybe that’s something I need to do better on the road,” Gray said. “And maybe it can be a little harder too because when I go on the road, my stuff is moving everywhere. My fastball doesn’t stay straight like it does here, and [a good changeup] is something I wanted to have because I know that lefties look in on me. They look at the slider and if I’m using the changeup, then it doesn’t have to be great. It’s a good pitch.”

Luckily for Gray, it appears that he will remain in Rockies purple after not being traded at the deadline as many expected. Leading up to the deadline, Gray expressed his desire to stay a Rockie and the two sides began some contract talks, but “nothing in detail or depth yet,” he said. “But they know I want to be here and I know they want me here so I think it’s going to come to a group decision.”

Gray said it was tough for him to block out the noise leading up to the deadline, but said it made him feel good to not be traded.

He also made sure to express his excitement for the “level of talent” that the Rockies have, despite likely being a few years away from contention.

“I know we’ve got some guys in their first couple of years playing a lot, but it’s been fun to watch,” he said. “Especially guys like [Brendan] Rodgers, for example. They come out and start to break out and he’s started to show his true self. It’s been a lot of fun to watch and I can’t wait to see where that goes because it’s going to make us a [much] better team in the next couple of years.”

Heading into the final stretch of the season, Gray is hoping to “win as much as we can.”

“We’ve got a ways to catch up,” he chuckled, “but just to see the best baseball out of us. I think we haven’t really seen our best games, so I’m ready to see everything kind of come together as a team and for us to dominate a little bit at the end.”

The Rockies will finish their home stand with a three-game set against the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Gray is projected to start on Saturday.