Phillies: Comparing Dallas Keuchel and Robbie Ray

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 12: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on August 12, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 12: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on August 12, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Phillies reportedly are interested in both Robbie Ray and Dallas Keuchel. Which one fits the team best in 2019 and beyond?

Besides landing one of the top bats, one of the Phillies‘ main goals is to add a left-handed starter this offseason. It’s not a necessity as they already possess one of the better rotations in the league, but adding a lefty into the mix could still improve it. Two lefties have recently emerged as potential targets for the team: former Astro Dallas Keuchel and current Diamondback Robbie Ray.

Both offer their own upsides and drawbacks, as players and in how the team would acquire each. Let’s dive in and figure out which player is ultimately best suited to don the red pinstripes.

First, here are the stats from each over the last four seasons, going back to 2015:

As you can see, Keuchel reigns supreme in just about every statistic. He has a lower ERA and fielding-independent pitching as well as more wins above replacement. It obviously helps that he won the American League Cy Young award in 2015 to help lead the Astros to the playoffs.

However, as you look deeper into things, you start to notice the difference between the two lefties. The first obvious difference is their strikeout rates. Ray strikes out significantly more batters with a more powerful approach on the mound. However, his command loses out in the process as Ray has walked four batters per nine innings in the last four years, including over five batters per nine in 2018.

Meanwhile, Keuchel remains a finesse pitcher with an average strikeout rate but a low amount of walks. He pitches to contact with a groundball rate near 60%, finishing the 2018 season with the highest groundball rate among qualified pitchers.

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Keuchel primarily uses his fastball to get batters out, throwing a sinker that averaged 89.5 mph 41.2% of the time, as well as a cutter and four-seam fastball. He employed a changeup 12.8% and slider 18.1% of the time.

Ray has the typical power pitcher arsenal with a mid-90s fastball, slider, and curveball. While Keuchel’s fastballs were his best pitches, Ray’s breaking pitches offered better results, according to Pitch Info Pitch Values.

This contrast between finesse and power leads directly into the next contrast between the two: age. Keuchel will turn 31 Tuesday while Ray turned 27 the day after the regular season ended. Keuchel’s finesse approach is more likely to stand the test of time, while Ray’s may break down as he ages. Fortunately for Ray, he still has a few more years to start worrying about that.

Finally, the last main difference between the two is how the Phillies would acquire each of them. As mentioned previously, Ray is still a Diamondback, meaning he would have to be acquired in a trade with Arizona. While Philadelphia is indeed interested in picking him up, the Diamondbacks may not be so eager to trade him. This could lead to Ray costing more than he is worth in a trade.

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Money is the only expense the Phils would have to pay to add the free-agent Keuchel. With that being said, they are reluctant to meet his asking price of a five-year contract, as are several other teams. While Keuchel’s pitching style shouldn’t drop off too severely, giving a long-term deal to a pitcher over 30 is always a gamble.

This leads us back to Ray. In the event that Philadelphia was to acquire Ray, they would have him under control for the next two seasons. 2019 is his second year of arbitration eligibility and he will become a free agent after the 2020 season. Even if he is only mid-rotation quality over the next two years, he will still remain a bargain before he hits free agency.

Altogether, there are really two main questions when deciding which player to try and acquire: which type of pitcher would you rather have and would you rather give up assets in a trade for a cost-controlled pitcher or commit more years without having to give up anything but money?

Next. Phillies "very interested" in Robbie Ray. dark

This is the ultimate debate between Keuchel and Ray, and there are logical arguments for both side. Personally, I believe it’s more likely they get Keuchel as he is a free agent and the Diamondbacks don’t appear ready to trade Ray anytime soon.