Davey Martinez, his coaches, and the Washington Nationals’ training staff did all they could to help guide Josiah Gray, 24, through his first full season in the majors, with extra rest between outings at times, and careful management of the right-hander’s workload a focus for the club, and the starter came out of the campaign feeling like he’d learned a lot about himself and what works best for him.
“I think the name of the game is just pitching, just getting outs,” Gray said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after giving up six hits, one of them a home run, two walks, and one earned run in six strong against the Atlanta Braves in his final outing of the season.
“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.”
Gray got through six on 85 pitches, with just two strikeouts total, which was an important development for the starter acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the deal at the deadline in 2021 which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA.
Josiah Gray's 9th and 10th Ks.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2022
And is fired up. Love it! pic.twitter.com/yCNF6fjzbG
“The whole focus today for him is to be around the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters after the outing.
“Limit the misses, the ups and aways, the arm-side misses, and he did it really well today, there were only a couple [strikeouts].”
Gray finished the year with a 5.02 ERA, a 5.86 FIP, 66 walks, 154 Ks, a league-leading 38 HRs allowed, and a .239/.324/.489 line against in 28 starts and 148 2⁄3 IP overall.
“He controlled the strike zone, which was awesome,” Martinez said after the final outing of the season for Gray.
“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 like 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, which was really nice.”
As for the relatively efficient pitch count for Gray?
“For me it was just being around the plate,” Martinez explained.
“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.”
Though he held open the possibility of another appearance in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s 28th outing, Martinez and Co. eventually decided against it, but GM Mike Rizzo, who made the trade to get the pitcher from the Dodgers, said they saw plenty from the righty in the starts he made, and Gray came out of the season with a lot of positives to build on.
Josiah Gray, Knee-Buckling 84mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/TYwi8lngvH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2022
“I thought he’s had a really productive year for himself as far as his progression as a guy who never pitched anywhere near 100 innings before and got well past that,” Rizzo said.
“Took the ball every five days without really a hiccup all season, and showed a propensity to miss bats and had stretches of dominance. Like a lot of young players, and young pitchers, consistency is the name of the game here. It’s hard to get to the big leagues. It’s even harder to stay in the big leagues, and it’s really difficult to excel in the big leagues, and I think that’s his next progression, but I like what I see every five days. He takes the ball, he’s hungry for the ball, he’s a competitor and a great athlete on the mound, I think he’s got a high ceiling and I was really encouraged how he finished the season.”