Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray Did What?

Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray may have sported a 4.90 ERA in 2016, but he racked up strikeouts at a prodigious clip.

When Arizona Diamondbacks supporters and baseball fans in general think about “most single-season strikeouts per nine innings,” the first names that might come to mind are MLB greats like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan. Or perhaps current whiff kings like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.

Indeed, all of those names are inclusive of the top 10 men on the highest single-season strikeouts per nine innings list. But looming barely off that same list is a young man who is planning to be a part of the strikeout conversation for years to come. His name is Robbie Ray.

2016 Season

That’s right. At a sterling 11.25 K/9 (218 strikeouts in a mere 174.1 innings), Robbie Ray has thrown his hat in the ring and burst onto the scene as one of the top punch-out artists in the game. Since 1930, only 10 pitchers have posted a higher single-season K/9 across the majors.

Once a highly touted prospect who was traded from the Nationals to the Tigers for Doug Fister, Ray flew under the radar in 2016 with the Diamondbacks. Playing in the NL West, he exploited matchups with the Padres (21 K in 11.2 IP), Dodgers (33 in 25) and Rockies (23 in 18). These three teams were all ranked in the top half of MLB for most team strikeouts.

Sure, Ray went 8-15 on a porous Arizona team and sure, he had a WHIP of 1.46, fifth-highest in the bigs. However, he also ranked 11th in contact percentage against (75.1 percent) and 13th in swing and miss percentage (11.6 percent).

Oh, and did I mention luck? Ray ranked dead last in BABIP and it wasn’t even close. With any type of progression back to the league average, Ray can become a deadly weapon on the already young and hungry Diamondbacks roster. Factor in the return of injured star A.J. Pollock, and there might be something cooking in the Copper State this summer.

More to Come in 2017?

Since coming to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2014 three-team winter trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees and Shane Greene to the Tigers, Ray has gone 13-27 with a 4.32 ERA. Hardly numbers to write home about, but at 25 years young with a great fastball and a wipeout slider, he has the makings for something great.

Slated to be the No. 2 man behind Zack Greinke in the Diamondbacks’ 2017 rotation, Arizona is hoping Robbie Ray can build a nice career in the desert and not simply become another one-hit wonder sporting that surname. I’m looking at you, Jimmy.

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