Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Garrett Richards

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 04: Garrett Richards #43 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners during their game at Safeco Field on May 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - MAY 04: Garrett Richards #43 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners during their game at Safeco Field on May 4, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Tuesday, May 22, the Blue Jays begin a difficult, important series against another tough AL West team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels will send the veteran right-hander Garrett Richards to the mound. The Blue Jays will counter with the steady J.A. Happ.

Garrett Richards was drafted by the Halos tenth overall in the 2009 Amateur players draft. Richards made his major league debut in 2011, and went on to make three starts that year, as well as coming out of the bullpen four times.

Richards had a good year in 2015, pitching to a 15-12 record and a 3.65 ERA. However, since 2015, Richards has struggled with a fair amount of injuries. If the righty manages at least three and 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays, it will be the first time in three seasons he has reached 50 innings pitched. As well, Wednesday’s start will make the first time he has made at least 10 starts in a season since 2015.

Despite injuries in the past, Richards has been good for the Angels this season. Through nine starts and 46 2/3 innings pitched, he holds a 4-2 record, 3.47 ERA, and a 120 ERA+.

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The right-hander hurler offers a five-pitch repertoire, including a fastball, slider, sinker, curveball, and change-up. Despite offering five pitches, Richards uses his fastball and slider, primarily. Also, the righty has only used the change once this year.

In terms of use rate, the slider is Richards’ favourite pitch this year, at a use rate of 38.1%. The slider is incredibly hard, averaging a velocity of 89.71 mph. Batters have not fared well against the pitch—it has produced both a great 45.26 whiff/swing rate and 60% groundball/BIP rate. These numbers have accumulated to a BAA of .136 and a SLGA of .242.  These numbers are understandable, as batters gear up for a good four-seamer only to see a hard slider that drops off the table as it enters the zone. The slider is far-and-away the strikeout pitch of choice from Richards. It has produced 36 punch outs, accounting for 68% of Richards’ K’s this year.

Richards throws his four-seamer 36.6% of the time, while averaging a velocity of 96.36 mph. As well, the veteran hurler has shown an ability to touch 100 mph at times. The fastball is mostly speed, though, as it is quite flat coming into the zone. Throwing 96 mph just isn’t as much of a weapon as it used to be, currently batters hold a .299 BAA and .522 SLG against Richards’ heater.

Richards will also mix in a sinker 14.7% of the time. The sinker is thrown as a two-seam fastball and it has more depth and speed than the four-seamer. Through nine starts, the sinker is just a little bit faster, at an average velocity of 96.48 mph. Richards’ sinker has produced ground balls at a great rate of 66.67% of balls in play.

He breaks off hooks 10.5% of the time on opposing batters. The curve averages a velocity of 81.62 mph with ordinary curveball break. From another pitcher, Richards’ curve wouldn’t be quite so deadly, but, with batters gearing up for a quick four-seamer, two-seamer, and slider, the curve offsets their timing. Indicative of this fact, the curve has not allowed a hit this season, but has produced whiffs on 34.48% of swings.

Richards has always been an extreme ground ball pitcher—this year has been no different. Through nine starts, the righty holds a great 55.4% groundball rate. Amazingly, despite this high rate, Richards has allowed a tiny BAA of .207.

The California native has produced strikeouts at an good rate of 27%. However, he has also allowed a bad walk rate of 10.7%. The trouble with the free pass has started to diminish, though, as Richards has allowed just two walks in his last three starts while striking out 16.

As a team, the Blue Jays hold a .221/.267/.379 slash line in 95 at-bats against Richards. Josh Donaldson and Curtis Granderson have the best numbers against Richards. Through 24 at-bats, the “Bringer of Rain” has seven hits, including two doubles. Granderson has four hits in six at-bats, including three home runs and five RBIs. Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak have almost identical numbers against Richards. Through 18 at-bats, Morales has two hits, including one home run. Smoak has just two hits, including a double, in 19 at-bats against the Oklahoma alumnus.

Next: It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

The Blue Jays need to bounce back after a tough four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics. However, to win this game, they will likely need the help of a good outing from J.A. Happ to keep them in a close game.