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Breaking down Minnesota Twins starter Sonny Gray

Chicago Cubs v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Dodgers offense is finally heating up. They didn’t dominate against the Padres scoring only four runs in each game, but they hit well situationally. But in the final two games against the Brewers they pushed 14 runs across. They scored nine on Monday before fizzling Tuesday against the Twins. Sonny Gray starts the finale for Minnesota on Wednesday.

Pitch #1: Curveball, 2023 usage rate - 23.8 percent

2023 stats - .186 xBA, .334 xSLG, .259 xwOBA

Average velo - 79.0 MPH - Spin rate - 2,647 RPM - vertical movement - 59.7 inches (7.0 inches above average) - horizontal movement - 13.4 inches

This pitch has been fantastic for gray this season. It carries a 41.2 percent whiff rate (2nd highest amongst his pitches) and 37.6 percent chase rate (2nd highest). Against left handed batters this actually becomes his fourth most used pitch at just 14.8 percent. Hitters are working getting on top of this pitch pretty consistently this year as it has a ground ball percentage of 58.3 percent.

Pitch #2: Cutter, 2023 usage rate - 19.1 percent

2023 stats - .211 xBA, .278 xSLG, .254 xwOBA

Average velo - 87.4 MPH - Spin rate - 2,643 RPM - vertical movement - 34.1 inches (5.1 inches below average) - horizontal movement - 5.2 inches

After throwing it just once last year, the cutter had become an often used pitch for Gray. The usage rate on this pitch might be a bit misleading though. He has two starts this season with a 29.5 percent pitch percentage on his cutter, in four games he has a usage rate of 15.3 percent and the other two sit in the middle. Hitters struggle to get his cutter in the air which is evidenced by the zero fly balls hit against it this season.

Pitch #3: Sinker, 2023 usage rate - 17.4 percent

2023 stats - .179 xBA, .318 xSLG, .305 xwOBA

Average velo - 92.5 MPH - Spin rate - 2,364 RPM - vertical movement - 21.6 inches - horizontal movement - 11.9 inches

Amongst his pitches this is the one that Gray tries to throw in the strike zone at the highest rate with an in zone percentage of 58.1 percent. Despite his propensity to throw it in the zone though, the in zone swing rate is the lowest amongst all of his pitches at 56 percent. Hitters have a hard hit rate (batted balls of 95+ MPH) of 56.3 percent against his sinker, the highest amongst all of his pitches, which is paired with a barrel rate of 9.1 percent. As a result, if hitters are able to make contact against the sinker, expect hard contact against it.

Pitch #4: Four seam, 2023 usage rate - 16.4 percent

2023 stats - .321 xBA, .446 xSLG, .391 xwOBA

Average velo - 92.7 MPH - Spin rate - 2,460 RPM - vertical movement - 18.0 inches - horizontal movement - 0.6 inches (7.4 inches below average)

After being Gray’s most used pitch last season, it is now sitting in the four spot for him. The change in usage is extremely logical as in both 2021 and 2022 it had the highest xBA and xwOBA amongst his pitches that he used 3 percent of the time or more. It simply does not bring a whole lot to the table for Gray. The chase rate against it is just 18 percent but the chase miss is only 27.3 percent. The line drive percentage against it this season is 42.1 percent, the highest amongst his arsenal.

Pitch #5: Sweeper, 2023 usage rate - 16 percent

2023 stats - .156 xBA, .254 xSLG, .175 xwOBA

Average velo - 83.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,679 RPM - vertical movement - 46.0 inches (7.9 inches above average) - horizontal movement - 16.0 inches

The sweeper, which almost every pitcher in baseball seems to throw this year, is a pitch that has shown flashes for Gray. It has a whiff rate of 43.8 percent, which if the season ended today would be the second highest whiff rate in a single season amongst pitches he has thrown 5 percent of the time or more. The chase rate on it is 38.1 percent and the chase whiff rate is 68.8 percent. In the zone the whiff rate drops to 18.8 percent, but that is the second highest number amongst his pitches.

Pitch #6: Changeup, 2023 usage rate - 7.3 percent

2023 stats - .248 xBA, .324 xSLG, .281 xwOBA

Average velo - 87.0 MPH - Spin rate - 1,715 RPM - vertical movement - 31.8 inches - horizontal movement - 14.9 inches

There is not a whole lot to discuss with this pitch because it only has 11 batted ball events and is nearly exclusively thrown to lefties with a pitch percentage of 17.9 percent against them. Against lefties it has a launch angle of 10 degrees, the highest of any pitch against opposite side hitters for him. Gray has an unsustainable 18.2 percent pop up percentage with his changeup against lefties. When that number comes back down to normal, the metrics against them will get worse but for the time being it is a plus pitch for Gray against them. Expect the likes of Max Muncy and Freddie Freeman to see a healthy diet of changes.

Key matchup to watch: Mookie Betts

Betts has five home runs in May, one more than he hit in all of April. Against right-handed batters, Gray throws a sinker, cutter or sweeper a little more than 75 percent of the time. When thrown those pitches this season Betts has a run value of +5, which is about in line with his career numbers against them over the course of a season. However, in both this and last season, Betts has a whiff rate of 37.5 and 38.9 percent respectively, which paired with Gray’s high whiff rate with his sweeper might cause Betts to struggle against him.

Prediction: Gray pitches six innings, strikes out five and allows one earned run.