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The many implications of Sonny Gray’s struggles

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Gray has been awful this season, but his effects on the Yankees stretch beyond his own starts.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Sonny Gray reached a new low in his last start on Wednesday, when he was lit up for seven runs against an Orioles team that finally waved the white flag prior to the trade deadline. Gray himself heard his name surface in trade discussions prior to Tuesday’s deadline, but Brian Cashman elected to keep Gray in pinstripes, which may become one of Cashman’s rare regrets.

Gray’s latest clunker offers another opportunity to see his effect on the team as a whole. When Gray struggles on the mound, the Yankees’ chances in game at hand aren’t all that suffer. Gray’s ineffectiveness bleeds over to the bullpen, and now into potential future starting pitchers.

First, there are the obvious, more direct consequences of Gray’s awful season. When Gray pitches, the offense finds themselves in an immediate hole, one they can rarely climb out of. The result is a chronic mediocrity, much like the kind that the Yankees have been struggling to shake off since the end of June. In Sonny Gray’s starts this season, the Yankees are 10-11, but are 30 games over .500 when Gray remains in the dugout. Sure, the Yankees have other issues right now, but if Gray was pitching to the back of his baseball card, the division lead would likely be much more in reach.

The division also has drifted out of grasp because of the way this week’s series in Boston started. CC Sabathia was ineffective and had to be pulled after just three innings. It was the exact situation that Lance Lynn was brought to New York for, as Lynn holds a 1.80 ERA in 30 13 innings against the Red Sox, and could have potentially held the fort while the Yankees pushed across seven runs. Instead, Lynn sat by helplessly as the struggling Jonathan Holder imploded, putting the game out of reach by the fourth inning.

Why? Because Lynn had thrown over 70 pitches of mop-up duty on Wednesday after Gray was pulled early. That workload also eliminated Lynn from starting against the Red Sox on Saturday in place of J.A. Happ, and the Yankees will now have to use an option on Chance Adams, who will be making his major-league debut against one of the best offenses in baseball. Any kind of length from Gray on Wednesday would have erased these monumental problems that the Yankees are currently facing.

Another issue in the rotation (at least recently) has been the struggles of Luis Severino, who allowed 19 earned runs in a recent stretch of 19.1 innings. After tossing over 190 innings in hist first full season in 2017, Severino could be suffering from fatigue, and may benefit from taking a start or two off. The problem is, the Yankees are desperately trying to stay in the divisional race, and with Gray consistently imploding and needing a replacement in the rotation, Severino can’t exactly take time off to get the rest he possibly needs.

The Yankees have other solutions to their problems, like playing better against inferior teams such as the Rays and the Orioles. Still, a lot of their problems stem from Gray, and the roots of those problems stretch far beyond his own struggles. The Yankees are paying the price for Gray, and not just on days he’s slated to pitch.