Richards has taunted fantasy owners with his potential before, as he looked like a future ace back in 2014 and 2015:
- 2014 – 2.61 ERA, 8.75 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 50.9% GB%
- 2015 – 3.65 ERA, 7.64 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, 54.9% GB%
Since then injuries have virtually sabotaged him year after year. The most innings he’s thrown in the five subsequent seasons was 76.1 in 2018 for the Angels, though in the shortened 2020 campaign he was able to make 10 starts (14 appearances). Even at 32-years old, he again showed us that there’s potential. Behind his 4.03 ERA were some intriguing underlying metrics:
- Strikeouts – 8.06 K/9 (courtesy of an 11.2% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.98 BB/9
- Groundballs – 40.1%
Obviously the big concern is the potential for home run issues, as he also was hit fairly hard (39.2% Hard%). Clearly he’s altered his approach, at least slightly, as he threw his sinker just 10.28% of the time. He also wasn’t getting as many groundballs on his slider, as his GB/BIP on the pitch in 2015 was 59.46% compared to 31.71% in ’20.
Even further complicating the matter was the .500 AVG and .800 SLG opponents put up against his sinker. It makes sense for him to throw it less, not more, and that could lead to fewer groundballs and more potential home run issues.
Given all of the missed time seeing Richards’ control being solid is encouraging and you could argue that there’s a little bit more upside in his strikeout rate (19.53% Whiff% on his slider). That’s enough to make him a streaming option, but is it enough to consider him a trustworthy option? Absolutely not, as matchups and location loom large for pitchers like Richards.
In other words don’t let the name continue to taunt you, there simply isn’t reason to believe he’ll suddenly morph back into a viable fantasy option.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball