Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Robbie Ray ended his 2021 season with the Cy Young Award on Wednesday, defeating Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees and Lance Lynn of the Chicago White Sox.
Armed with a four-joint fastball, skate, curveball and changing repertoire, Ray was 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA (1.04 VIP) in 193.1 innings thrown leading all American League pitchers with 6.7 WAR. Ray became the first Blue Role to win the award since Roy Halladay took home the honorary degree in 2003, joining a club featuring Pat Hentgen in 1996 and Roger Clemens in 1997 and 1998.
Ray became a free agent after the 2021 season and is one of the best pitchers on the market.
Lynn finished third in voting for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America while Cole finished second. Ray received 29 out of 30 first-place votes.
Ray began his career as the Nationals’ 12th round pick in 2010 before being traded in 2013 to the Detroit Tigers in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Washington DC. Ray made his major league debut in 2014 before the Tigers traded Ray to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a deal that sent Didi Gregorius from Arizona to New York and Shane Greene from New York to Detroit.
The 30-year-old Ray landed in Toronto in 2020 after the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him for substitute Travis Bergen. In 2020, Ray pitched in five games, posting a 4.79 ERA, 1.74 WHIP in 20.2 innings pitched after wrestling with the Diamondbacks to the tune of a 7.84 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP in seven starts.
His total ERA 6.62 in 2020 is the highest ever by pitcher in a season before winning a Cy Young award, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Ray re-signed with Toronto after the 2020 season with a one-year, $ 8 million contract. While Ray missed the first two weeks of the 2021 season recovering from an elbow contusion he suffered falling down a ladder late in spring training, he posted the best year of his career, leading the American League in ERA, innings thrown, erasures, ERA + and WIP.
Improved control was key to Ray’s rebound season. After averaging nearly eight walks per nine innings in 2020, Ray has walked just 2.4 batters per nine this season. No pitcher since 1900 has ever improved his walks by nine more from one season to the next.
Ray also broke Yu Darvish’s record for most career strikeouts through 1,000 innings thrown with 1,241 and is currently the all-time leader in strikeouts by nine (11.2).