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Garrett Richards: Rust or Regression?

Jun 11, 2015
Will Garrett Richards be able to recover from his early-season struggles?

Will Garrett Richards be able to recover from his early-season struggles?

Garrett Richards had his brilliant 2014 season halted by a significant knee injury last August. As tough as it was to see that happen, it’s been just as frustrating to watch him struggle to start 2015. In all fairness, he did spend the first few weeks of the 2015 season on the DL while recovering from that injury, but here we are nearing mid-June and he’s sitting on a 4.14 ERA with a lowered strikeout rate and as many homers allowed thus far as he did in all of 2014. So what gives?

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First of all, let’s take a look at what changed from previous seasons to his breakout campaign last year. We have always known that Richards throws hard and he in fact threw harder than ever last season. With this velocity, expectations for more strikeouts followed, but they didn’t materialize until 2014 (8.75 K/9). With this increase in velocity, his pull % allowed was 37.1% which is 1.5% below his career average. Not a huge change, but still noteworthy. You’d expect some hitters to be late due to being off-balance more often against him than before (harder to hit opposite field homers) and thus it helped lead to an ultra-low 3.9% HR/FB rate last year (career 8.7%). Looking at his left on-base percentage last season, it was an above-average 74.9%, but strikeout pitchers can get away with that more as they tend to be able to get out of jams due to a higher K rate. So to sum up his leap forward in 2014, he increased his K rate (6.27 K/9 was highest mark up to that point), which helped lead to doing a better job getting out of jams (69% was his highest LOB % up to that point) and quite frankly was somewhat lucky as he allowed a 28% fly ball rate (right in line with career average) while his HR/FB rate plummeted to 3.9% (which can’t all be attributed to the pull % drop).

Before I sum this up, let’s check out his 2015 numbers to date. His fastball velocity is fine, but his K/9 currently stands at 7.36 and his walks are up to 3.99 BB/9 vs. 2.72 BB/9 last season. His HR/FB rate has normalized some (8.6%) due to a jump in fly ball rate overall (33.3% vs. 28% last year).

So why the difference? First off, I still don’t think he’s confident and if you watch a video of his knee injury you can maybe understand why. I will admit that natural regression from last year’s big leap is probably a culprit to some extent, but if you’re not fully confident and thus struggling with control you’re likely not fooling batters as much and this can lead to more damaging contact as fly balls can turn into homers (5 allowed already). In conclusion, I think some of Richards’ early season struggles likely are rust, with a little bit of regression mixed in.

Adam Sutton is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Adam, follow him @DraftStars_Adam. You can find more of Adam’s work at DraftStars.net.

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