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MLB.com’s Mike Petriello discusses Sonny Gray, spin rates, and more

Even the most casual sports fan knows that statistics in baseball matter. With so many different aspects to analyze in just one pitch, no other sport in existence puts as much of an emphasis on stats as baseball does. And quite arguably, there may not be anyone who knows more about how to break down baseball stats than MLB.com analyst and host of the Statcast podcast, Mike Petriello.

On today’s episode of The Bronx Pinstripes Show (@YankeesPodcast), Scott had the privilege of hosting Petriello in a super interesting conversation about all things stats (the conversation starts at 45:35). Petriello also discussed some of our burning questions surrounding the Yankees using the analysis of advanced metrics.

One of the notable topics Petriello talked about was the significance of spin rate, and what a good and bad spin rate is for pitchers. Petriello noted that the best pitches to look at spin rate for are fastballs and curveballs. With a four-seam fastball, for example, it’s good to have a high spin rate because it will cause the ball to rise, leading to more pop-ups and strikes. On the flip side, it’s also good to have a low spin rate for the exact opposite reason. In that case, the ball will sink, causing a lot of ground-outs. A bad spin rate, according to Petriello, is one that is right in the middle, or league-average. This spin rate causes less ball movement, making it much easier for hitters to square up. 

On this topic, Petriello also gave great insight on our guy Sonny Gray.

“It’s important to remember when he was at his best with the A’s, he was never a high-strikeout guy. He was actually striking out fewer guys than he is now with the Yankees. That was just never his game… he was a guy who would get weak contact, avoid home runs, and get the ball on the ground. And to me, that’s what’s changed. He’s got a career-low ground ball rate this year… he’s got a career-high walk rate.. which is not great.”

Obviously, this is the stuff that has frustrated us all year. Gray’s inconsistency has been enough to even put a few gray hairs on my 21 year-old head. Petriello gave some insight as to why he thinks Gray has been this way.

“When he was with the A’s and doing well, he was throwing a ton of fastballs. And now he’s on a team (like) the Yankees, where they just don’t throw fastballs. And I almost wonder if that’s messing with him a little bit. If that’s just trying to get him away from his strengths to kind of work toward the team strengths.”

Petriello is right, but hopefully Sonny continues to have starts like last night so we don’t have to go crazy anymore.

In addition to Sonny and spin rates, Petriello discussed:

  • Explanation of expected weighted on base average (xWOBA) and if that stat should be enough to persuade the Yankees to stick with Aaron Hicks over Clint Frazier.
  • Lucky hitting vs. unlucky hitting and which side of the spectrum Aaron Judge falls on.
  • The all-time team home run record — how big of a deal would it be for the Yankees to break it?
  • If Gleyber Torres is actually going to continue to be the slugger he’s been and what stats we can analyze to help us find out.
  • Who is the real Didi Gregorius? April or May Didi… or both? 

To find out what Petriello had to say about all of these and more, be sure to listen to today’s edition of The Bronx Pinstripes Show. Trust me, you won’t regret it.