What Does Chaim Bloom See In Garrett Richards?
The Boston Red Sox have had maybe the weirdest offseason in the sport. Somehow they’re making trades with the Yankees, giving Kike Hernandez way too much money, and filling a hole in their rotation with Garrett Richards. Richards is an important piece if the Red Sox are actually going to contend in 2021. What exactly did Chaim Bloom see in Garrett Richards?
After Corey Kluber signed with the Yankees, Boston decided to bring back Martin Perez and sign Richards. It’s not a cheap investment either. Richards signed a deal worth $10 million including an option for 2022. Out of all the free agents on the market, why sign Richards?
Well, the better question is how important is spin rate to you? In 2020, Richards ranked in the 97th percentile in fastball spin rate. His less featured curveball ranked in the 99th percentile. The former Angels and Padres starter only featured his curveball 7.5% of the time a year ago. It makes you wonder if the Sox coaching staff is already in contact with him to make it more of a game plan. On paper, it is a gorgeous pitch.
Richards is mostly a fastball – slider guy and that sneaky slider falls off the face of the earth. Opponents only hit .147 in 2020 off his slider. There’s so much that goes into pitching. One tweak here or there can go a long way. What’s encouraging is that his slider has knockout power. Richards’ slider resulted in a 40.5% K rate a year ago.
It’s hard to get elite hitters out with the straight cheese. Front offices are looking for pitchers that have deceptive fastballs. Richards’ spin rate again makes him unique. In 2020, he averaged 95.1 mph, with a spin rate of 2626 rpms. Trevor Bauer is the only pitcher in the sport with a higher spin rate on his cheese.
Over the last four years, Richards has only given up four home runs on his fastball. Half the battle is keeping the ball in the ballpark. Richards also features a sinker but it’s not featured often. Additionally, the right-handed starter limits unnecessary base runners. He’s never posted high walk rates. His 3BB per 9 rate is more than satisfactory.
When you really dive into the data, you can really talk yourself into Garrett Richards. The problem is that’s where the nerds have often gotten themselves into trouble. Sometimes you can overthink things. At the end of the day, the Red Sox are investing in an injury-plagued starter that hasn’t put together an elite season since 2017.
Richards has struggled to stay healthy for a long time. Richards started having elbow problems in 2016 and finally got Tommy John surgery in 2018. Richards should have gotten the problem taken care of right away but he was Angels were desperate to get back into the playoffs. It wasn’t fair to Richards and probably caused more harm than good.
After becoming a damaged free agent in 2018, the Padres offered him a two-year contract. The first year was a wash just recovering from TJ surgery. The second year, Richards showed some flashes but was mostly ineffective. Bloom is gambling that Richards has had enough time away from TJ surgery that 2021 will represent the old Angels version.
This is the double edged sword of free agency. At the end of the day, nobody has a crystal ball. Baseball is the most mysterious sport that exists. Richards could be a Cy Young candidate or he could flat out suck. That’s baseball. Bloom and the Red Sox staff are hoping the data proves Richards was a great investment.