Sonny Gray has been a major part of the Oakland A’s starting rotation this season but is the 24-year-old right hander simply a victim of a lack of run support or is he running out of gas?
Aside from the recently acquired Jon Lester, the Oakland A’s pitching staff has not lived up to the expectations and Gray has been a big part of that let down.
Gray suffered his fourth consecutive loss in Saturday night’s defeat in Atlanta, pitching fewer than six innings for the second time in his past three starts. During his four game losing streak in August, Gray has an ERA of 4.94.
The right hander has recorded 157.1 innings in his first full season in the bigs and is on pace to notch over 200 innings for Oakland in 2014. Gray is quickly eclipsing his innings total of 172.1 from 2013, 118.1 of which were in the minors.
While it seems silly to think that a 24-year-old could suffer from fatigue, pitching a full season in the majors is a whole other ball game. Especially considering that Gray was the A’s work horse in the first half of season. He led Oakland in innings pitched prior to the All-Star break with 125.1. That work load could now be taking its toll on the young but unseasoned right-hander.
With former starter Jesse Chavez in the bullpen, manager Bob Melvin has the option of giving Gray a little break by pushing back a start or two. Melvin did so earlier in the year when Gray was showing signs of fatigue. However, the A’s now sit in a tie with the Angels atop the AL West and they now have little room for error.
The struggles of Gray would not be a major concern if the A’s offense was producing more but Oakland’s offense has gone anemic as of late, scoring three runs or fewer in 15 of its past 19 games. Further, during Gray’s four game losing streak, the offense has been the key factor. They have scored three or fewer runs in each of Gray’s past four starts.
In order for the A’s endure their offensive struggles, their pitching staff has to step it up and Gray will be a major factor in whether that happens or not. Unfortunately for the A’s, Jason Hammel‘s lack of success since being acquired from Chicago has put stress on the back end of the starting rotation and Gray has been a victim.
With all that being said, it’s fair to say that Gray’s recent struggles are the result of a combination of fatigue and a lack of run support but probably more of the latter. Regardless of how 2014 ends up playing out for Gray, whether he limps to finish line or catches a second wind en route to a deep run in October, this season will be a solid building block in what appears to be a very bright future for Sonny Gray. The experience and endurance that Gray has built up in 2014 will be invaluable to his career going forward.
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