Going into what would end up being his final start of the 2022 campaign, Josiah Gray had given up 4+ runs in four straight starts, with five home runs allowed in 19 2⁄3 innings pitched over that stretch, and the 25-year-old starter, in his first full run in the majors, gave up another long ball in his last outing (for an NL-high 38 HRs allowed on the year), but that was the only run he allowed in an efficient, six-inning, 85-pitch outing.
Gray did walk two batters in the start, for an NL-high 66 free passes on the year, but he limited the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves to the one run on two hits, and finished his first full big league season on a high note.
“He was good,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters following Gray’s 28th start of the year, which left him with a 5.02 ERA, 5.86 FIP, the 66 walks (4.00 BB/9), 154 Ks (9.32 K/9), 2.30 HR/9, and a .239/.324/.489 line against in 148 2⁄3 IP overall.
“Fastball command was a lot better. And he controlled the strike zone, which was awesome,” Martinez added. “And that’s what we’re looking for. His ball had a lot of life at the end. His slider was really good, and we didn’t have to do a whole lot with it. When he threw it over the plate, he got some swings and misses, but he was really effective today because he was throwing the ball over the plate. Down, up, but it was over the heart of the plate.”
The fact that Gray struck out just two of the 22 batters he faced stood out as well, with the pitcher noting after the outing it’s all about getting outs in any way he possibly can.
“I think the name of the game is just pitching, just getting outs,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman back in September (2022).
“Whether it’s a strikeout, a groundout or a pop-out or flyout, just getting outs. And I think the last month, I’ve been able to just simplify and not worry too much about swing and miss. Just throw the ball in the zone, let the defense take care of plays. Today, they did an amazing job in the air and on the ground, and let me get through the sixth inning there.”
“The whole focus today for him is to be around the strike zone, limit the misses, the ups and aways, the arm-side misses, and he did it really well today, there were only a couple,” his manager added.
“For me it was just being around the plate,” Martinez explained. “Like I said, the 0-2 [counts] got outs, the 1-2s got outs, and that’s because he was around the plate. He’s going to get a lot of swings when he’s around the plate, but when he gets to 0-2 and the misses are arm-side misses way outside, or bouncing stuff, you know, it doesn’t — there’s good hitters up here, you don’t get the chases like you want. When you go strike-to-ball, strike-to-ball, that’s when you start seeing the chases, and he did that well today.”
The talk of arm-side misses, mechanical fixes, and all the home runs he gave up was a topic of discussion for the skipper when talking about Gray throughout the ‘22 campaign.
After the former Los Angeles Dodgers’ starter (who was acquired in the 2021 deadline deal which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA), gave up three dingers in a three-inning outing against LA back in late May, Martinez discussed what the club thought was behind the misses and homers.
“A lot of arm-side misses, couldn’t locate his fastball at all, breaking balls, some were sharp, some weren’t,” Martinez told reporters, before getting into the “why” part of the discussion.
“We always talk about with him — he has a funky landing with his front foot, and that’s not going to change overnight,” the manager said, “… but when he stays down and [is] using his legs, and drives, he corrects a lot of it.
“Today, he was just open, arm came out away from his body, and you get all that run.”
When he spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings this past December, Martinez was asked if Gray was working on fixing the mechanical issues the club identified for the young starter.
“He started a little bit of it,” Martinez said.
“The whole — I was trying to get him more, like we talked about, more over his front side, not arm side, not leaking arm side. So he is starting. Until he really gets on the mound and really starts going, you can’t really do much, but I know he’s working on a lot of hip mobility to fix his front hip, which will definitely help him out a lot.
“As soon as he starts throwing, I know [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey had plans to go down and see him and start talking to him about what needs to happen to get him where he needs to be.”