He started the season on the injured list after falling down the stairs carrying his child, and he’ll end the season by hoisting a Cy Young award.
Left-hander Robbie Ray has become the fourth Cy Young award winner in Toronto Blue Jays history. He joins Pat Hentgen (1996), Roger Clemens (1997 and 1998), and Roy Halladay (2003) as other Blue Jays hurlers named as top pitcher in the American League.
Ray led the AL in ERA, starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA+, while New York Yankees starter Gerrit Cole finished a close second in many categories, but finished in second place.
Whether Clemens’ 1997 and 1998 Cy Young campaigns were aided by performance-enhancing drugs, his numbers are unlikely to be broken. Ray’s 248 strikeouts in 2021 rank as the third-most ever by a Blue Jay, bested by Clemens’ 292 punch-out campaign in 1997 and his 271 strikeout season in 1998.
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Ray’s previous career high in the Cy Young race was a seventh-place finish as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. He spun a marvellous season in the National League, making his first and only All-Star appearance. Miraculously, he was not an All-Star in 2021.
After authoring one of the best starting pitching performances in franchise history, Ray is now a free agent and can sign with any of MLB’s 30 suitors. The Blue Jays are believed to be among the teams interested in bringing back the 30-year-old.
Ray reinvented himself year-over-year, as a pitcher who led the National League in walks in 2020 before the Blue Jays traded for him at the deadline. Armed with a pumped-up fastball and a wipeout slider, his strikeout rate jumped back up to his typical 32.1%, all while limiting free passes and trimming his walk rate to a career-low 6.9%.
Along with infielder Marcus Semien, the Blue Jays had signed both veteran players to some of the best one-year deals in MLB history. Ray was the first free agent to sign out of the gate last offseason, returning to the Blue Jays on a one-year, $8 million deal.
According to FanGraphs “value” metric, Ray provided $31.3 million in value for the Blue Jays during the 2021 season.
Coming off a Cy Young campaign, Ray will surely seek $100+ million on the open market, and he joins Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman as the biggest fish in the starting pitcher free agent pool.