The beginning and end of the season each showed a very different Trevor Richards

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

To put it bluntly, in 2022 Trevor Richards was not great. But for the first couple of months of the 2023 season, it looked like Pete Walker had worked his magic and the Jays had found a hidden gem for their pen. Then he got injured and everything fell apart.

On July 29, Richards' ERA on the season was 2.96. He had just pitched 1.1 shutout innings against the Padres in a game the Blue Jays ultimately lost 2-0. On Oct. 1, his ERA was 4.95 after giving up at least one earned run for the third consecutive game. So what went wrong?

Firstly, you have to look at what Richards changed from 2022 to 2023, the most noticeable? He removed his curveball. The pitch was worth -8 runs and had horrible horizontal and vertical movement according to Baseball Savant. His changeup and four seamers have amongst the best movement. So he just relied on those. And it worked. But it only works if you can locate it.

In the months of June and July (which were the most efficient for Richards) he threw for a combined 29.1 innings over 20 games, striking out 44 and walking 11. A 3.75 BB/9 is definitely high, but when you're striking out over a batter an inning you can live with it. He also excelled at getting lefties out, holding them to a .207 average on the year as a whole. In the pre-Genesis Cabrera games where Tim Mayza was unavailable, he was John Schneider's go-to when some tough lefties were coming up. Then August came.

On Aug. 3, Richards was placed on the 15-day IL with neck inflammation, and when he returned almost three weeks later, he was almost an entirely different pitcher. In the beginning, everything seemed fine, two scoreless appearances, one of which was due to some clutch pitching by Tim Mayza, but not much out of the ordinary. Then he gave up 5 runs to Baltimore. But then he pitched 4 shutout innings over his next two games, and this see-saw had some worries, but he had proven so far this season that he was an effective pitcher. Until *shudders* September.

The Blue Jays could not score runs for the life of them this season. and when you can't score, having an unreliable reliever makes things so much harder for your team. The Jays kept throwing Richards out there, in lower leverage as his numbers got worse, and no matter the situation, he failed to have a good game. Over 5 appearances from Sept. 3 to 13, he gave up a combined 12 runs. Toronto lost three of those games. The Jays also lost the three games in which he gave up runs at the end of September. I understand he can't control the hitting, but in a season in which most of the bullpen excelled, it made his falters even more noticeable.

As a long man, Richards is serviceable, but there are significant concerns now if he can keep it going for a full season. When he's on, that changeup can cut through lefties batters like no other. But when he's not, he isn't worthy of a spot. The positives outweighed the negatives for most of the season, but the recency effect isn't doing him any favors. I was leaning towards giving him a B-, but that September and October were just too ineffective to ignore.

Final Grade: C+

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