After shaky second half last year, Trevor Richards looks to be returning to form

Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays
Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

The Blue Jays bullpen is far from full strength, as the team is still currently without their two best relievers in both Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano. While both relievers are ramping up for returns to the team, the current stable of relievers have had to carry the load in their absence.

One pitcher who has done a very commendable job in the early-going is Trevor Richards. This is now Richards' fourth season spent with the team, and there've certainly been plenty of highs and plenty of lows. However, given his ability to go multiple innings, and be thrust into any role the Jays ask of him, he could be looking to put together one of his better seasons to date.

Richards was traded to the Jays from the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2021. His first stint with the Jays was excellent as he pitched to a 3.31 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in 32.2 innings. He was a much needed addition to a bullpen that needed his services. The next year wasn't as smooth for the Illinois native. In 2022, Richards saw a deep decline, pitching to a 5.34 ERA in 62 games. In short, when Richards is on, he's on, and when he's not, things can get out of hand very quickly.

2023 was a tale of two pitchers, as Richards was invaluable for the first half of the season, before posting a grisly 8.04 ERA in the 2nd half, after returning from an IL stint with neck strain. He allowed 6 home runs and 18 walks in his last 28 innings, making it very hard for him to be a viable option. Many fans thought this finish could be the writing on the wall for Richards tenure with the Jays, but the front office was willing to give him another opportunity. Now it's simply a matter of tapping into his best stuff on a more consistent basis.

Richards has played in in 7 games so far for the Blue Jays, and it has gone well so far. In 6.2 innings, Richards has a 2.70 ERA, striking out 8, and only allowing 3 hits. Richards has always excelled at getting batters to whiff, posting a K% of 31.4 since 2021. His biggest issue lied with having shaky command, and getting barreled far too frequently. So what kind of pitcher can we expect Richards to be?

Richards has an excellent changeup more than anything else. Batters whiffed on that pitch 47.8% of the time last year, which was the most of any pitchers changeup. It's effective to both right handed hitters and left handed hitters, which give Richards various type of leverage innings he can be put into. Unfortunately, his fastball isn't quite as sharp, andhas been hit hard over the past few seasons. Batters hit .330 with a .538 SLG against his 4 seam last year, and when Richards command isn't completely sharp, it more likely than not that it'll lead to a blow up outing.

As it stands for now, Richards is certainly a useful reliever to have around, and also one of the Jays better internal options. He can be used in mid leverage, and even be asked for a few extra outs over some of the Jays' other relievers. If Richards is able to keep up his current 2024 pace, the Jays will be very satisfied with the pitcher's performance, just before his contract expires.