Ivan Herrera could be playing a role in Sonny Gray's skid

Sonny Gray hasn't seen the same success that he did earlier in the season with the St. Louis Cardinals, and data shows that he has changed his arsenal after Ivan Herrera took over the catching duties.
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

St. Louis Cardinals ace Sonny Gray burst out of the gate like gangbusters in 2024, but his latest starts haven't gone the way the team's stopper had hoped. In his first five starts, Gray had a sparkling 0.89 ERA, but since May 9, Gray has made six starts and pitched to a 5.46 ERA. The biggest change between the first five starts and the last six has been Gray's battery mate, which suggests that a shift in philosophy could be at play with Ivan Herrera as his catcher rather than Willson Contreras.

Gray has had a few odd starts with Herrera behind the plate. On May 20, he asked to be removed from the game after pitching six innings, saying that he had "nothing left." On May 26, Gray said that he had trouble loosening up his lower half. It appeared that Gray might have been hiding an injury, but it's possible that he was covering for Herrera, whom he hasn't seemed to mesh with as well as he has with Contreras.

In a postgame interview after his start on June 6 against the Colorado Rockies, where he went 4.2 innings and allowed three runs and four walks, Gray said that he needed to get back to throwing over the middle of the plate early in the count and get ahead. He said that over the last couple of weeks, "we've been going to more edges early," which Gray admitted contributed to walks.

Baseball Savant indicates that with Herrera behind the plate, Gray has gone to the curveball early in counts more often than when Contreras was his catcher, which could be a major factor in his falling behind batters and allowing more walks. Gray has also deemphasized his four-seam fastball, which has been hit around this season to the tune of a .386 average.

Game-calling is difficult for fans to discern, but however Herrera directs Gray's arsenal, it doesn't appear to jibe with Gray's pitching preferences. But with the pitch clock in play, pitchers aren't given much time to shake off catchers and decide on the pitch they want to throw.

Gray's start to the season couldn't have gone much better, and with Contreras' return potentially on the horizon, Gray could soon be back to his old dominant form. In the meantime, Gray and Herrera should work on figuring out an approach that will allow Gray to pitch to his strengths.