The Padres and their fans are really excited about the future of the team with all the upcoming prospects. However, there hasn’t been enough talk about the bright spots of the major league club these days.
Clayton Richard was acquired in August and was re-signed in December of last year to be a Padre for the second time in his career. In his first stint with San Diego, from 2009 to 2013, he was a younger pitcher who was just coming into his own as a starer. He was a serviceable starter, in the rotation with guys like Kevin Correia, Jon Garland, Mat Latos, and Tim Stauffer. In four of those first five seasons in San Diego, he posted an ERA+ of 90 or better. He also made 33 starts twice.
His second time around, Richard is not just a “guy.” He is 33 years old. The oldest in the Padres’ rotation. That is no accident. He came in to be someone the young guys could look to. He might not have stellar numbers this season, (his best season was last year when his combined numbers with the Cubs and Padres came to a 3.33 ERA and a career best 123 ERA+), but he has tremendous value.
This season, he leads the team with 27 starts. He hasn’t missed one. He has a 4.96 ERA with an 86 ERA+. His influence on this team goes far beyond his numbers though. He is showing the young guys like Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo what it means to show up every fifth day and just compete. The basic job of the starting pitcher is to give the team a chance to win the game late. Richard has done that more often than not.
The Padres came into this season with little optimism about their situation in the starting rotation. Richard is one reason why the Padres have overachieved by many standards. They sit at 57 wins and are even two games better at this point than they were in 2016. Many picked this team to lose 100+ games. That is not going to happen.
Richard has shown up everyday for work. His workman-like approach showed up again during his start on Sunday in Miami. It certainly was not his best start (five earned runs – eight hits), but he went seven innings. That marked the seventh time this season he has gone at least seven innings for the Friars. Appreciation is deserved for a guy like Richard, eating innings and setting an example on a rebuilding team.
He was also rewarded for his hard work with a home run on Sunday. Richard smiled widely as he slowly rounded the bases for his second career home run in 318 career plate appearances. In fact, he was the Padres’ only source of offense in Sunday’s loss to the Marlins.
Richard has been the rock of this rotation. His contract is up after this season. I would go as far as to say they should sign him again, at the right price, to do it all over again next season. The young pitchers that will trickle into the big leagues in the next year or two need an example. Clayton Richard can be that imperfect, but reliable, model.