Is it Time to Say Goodbye to Clayton Richard?

Credit: AP Photo

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

By now, we’ve pretty much all seen Clayton Richard‘s pitching fall off during the second half of this season.

His ERA of 5.33 doesn’t lead to much confidence regarding his future in the Padres’ rotation, and neither does his 3.4 BB/9 ratio.

Richard was good enough in the first half to justify having around, pitching to a 4.43 ERA and throwing an impressive 124 innings.

We weren’t thrilled to see him take the mound, but at least he was likely going to go deeper into the game and help rest the bullpen for the day.

In the second half, his ERA has ballooned to 8.57, with the veteran only striking out sixteen batters in 34.2 innings with thirteen walks. As an extreme ground ball pitcher, Richard’s ground ball rate has lowered from 57.9% during the first half, to 53.5% after the all-star break. We’ve been over what has gone wrong for him before, but that was over a month ago. It’s important to see if there have been any new developments in his struggles or not.

First let’s look at where he’s been placing his pitches in relation to the strike zone, so we can see if his issues have largely been tied to his ability to command his repertoire or not.

Here they are side-by-side.

His first half Statcast heat map on the left, and identical chart for the second half on the right:

As we can see, Richard has started throwing pitches towards the middle part of the plate a lot more often during the second half of the season. He’s also strangely started to throw pitches towards that upper-right location we see there in the data for the second half, which is not encouraging. His heat map on the right is basically right down the pike, in the heart of home plate. Clearly, Richard is having problems with command more than anything else, but that doesn’t tell us the whole story.

We now need to see if the hitters facing Richard are finding more success in terms of squaring up the pitches he’s throwing to them. As we could likely guess based on the changes in pitch locations for Richard, he’s been hit pretty hard in comparison to the batted balls he allowed during the first half. On the left is the Statcast data for the first half, while the right includes the same information for the second:

The barrels Richard has allowed are quite obvious, and it looks like he’s almost given up as many barrels in the second half as during the first, in less than half the number of starts! So in addition to throwing more pitches down the middle, Richard’s opponents are hitting those pitches with even more success now. Consider this data on his last start against the Dodgers, as East Village Times Facts says:

That’s not encouraging, and shows that batters are seeing Richard’s pitches very well right now. It’s tough to be successful in the major leagues when giving up hits at such high exit velocities, something Richard has probably learned. We’ve found two points of data to help us fully understand what’s going on with Richard, but there’s still more to explore.

Has his stuff played down due to decreased movement or velocity in his pitches? Using data from Brooks Baseball, we can have a pretty good idea of whether or not this happened to Richard. Let’s compare the data from the first half and the second, to try and answer that question. Here’s the data:

3-29-18 — 7-17-18:

Pitch Type Count Freq Velo (mph) pfx HMov (in.) pfx VMov (in.)
Fourseam 218 11.69% 91.08 7.49 6.7
Sinker 998 53.51% 90.73 10.48 1.91
Change 121 6.49% 84.84 8.2 2.59
Slider 528 28.31% 81.51 -0.08 -1.85

7-17-18 — 8-25-18:

Pitch Type Count Freq Velo (mph) pfx HMov (in.) pfx VMov (in.)
Fourseam 45 8.72% 90.21 6.65 6.47
Sinker 312 60.47% 90.08 9.82 1.16
Change 28 5.43% 83.7 7.15 0.59
Slider 131 25.39% 80.54 -0.64 -1.75

The fact that he’s throwing his sinker more often, yet not getting more ground balls, is indicative of how much his command has been an issue in the second half. Only his slider velocity has increased marginally, and all of his other pitches have definitely lost some zip. So the stuff is down for Richard, too,in addition to him struggling with command of his pitches.

In the coming weeks, the Padres will have a lot to evaluate in terms of Clayton Richard’s performance. He has not pitched well enough to have a very secure spot on the roster at this point, so he’s going to need to improve to make next year’s team. If he keeps pitching the way he has recently, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres cut ties with the veteran. The idea behind signing a guy like Richard was that he’d be a leader and be an example for the younger guys with solid performance. If he can’t provide that kind of stability, it may be time for the Padres to move on.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

16 thoughts on “Is it Time to Say Goodbye to Clayton Richard?

  1. This would have been a great article to write in February. Please don’t write the same article when we bring back Phil Hughes to be our #1 next year (and yes, I know the story….). Something like that will happen.

  2. Now it comes out he needs surgery, that explains his second half slump. Give him a chance to pitch healthy in 2019.

    1. Come on Tom, we’re going to have 8 or 9 MLB ready, HoF pitching prospects coming up next year. There simply won’t be room for Clay Clay. We should win 130-140 games too.

      They’re also gonna move Wil to catcher and platoon Hedges and Renfroe at 3B coach. Tatis will be starting in LF and he’s gonna work with Big Mac in the offseason on steroids. Everyone will hit over .340. This is really easy stuff and it’s a given. You should know this.

  3. I like Clayton’s leadership in the club house, but he has been way to inconsistent on the mound.
    Personally, I think he should retire and the Padres hire him as a coach. I think he would be great for the youngsters coming up.
    As for players to keep.
    –Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers in all of the majors. And his bat is getting better.
    –Hosmer was always going to struggle his first year, because he is facing all new pitchers in a different league.
    –Asuaje and Pirela need to go. Spangenberg you keep because of his speed and ability to play multiple positions. Every team needs a utility player. Urias will be the future at Second.
    –Galvis I am torn on. Do the Padres try to re-sign him? Defensively he has been awesome and we haven’t had that at shortstop since Khalil Green. But he is a lifetime .250 hitter and will probably never improve on that. My question is can Tatis match the defensive play? and will he be ready to move up next year?
    –I am okay with Myers at 3rd over Villanueva. Both are defensive liabilities, but Myers is the better hitter. Not likely to be traded with his contract.
    –I would like to see them keep Renfroe, Margot, Cordero, Jankowski, and Reyes. The rest can be trade bait.
    — The bullpen is pretty well set, but think they need to get a closer. Kirby is much better as the 8th inning set up guy.
    — Starter pitching needs to get rid of the old guys and let the youngsters pitch. Lucchesi, Lauer, Strahm should be the top 3, and let Nix, Lamet, Quantrill, Allen, Perdomo and maybe a veteran or two fight for the last 2 spots.

  4. Move him to the pen, then trade him or cut him in the off season.
    From a roster perspective this is still a crappy team, riddled with uninspired options. The way to solve this is to unsentimentally evaluate all players.
    1) The wow are they bad players: Bryan Mitchell, Phil Hughes, Clayton Richard. No reason to keep any of them.
    2) The too old to still be prospect players: Asuaje (26), Spangenberg (27), Villanueva (27), Pirela (28), Dickerson (28). Time to move on, keep Asuaje until Urias is ready.
    3) More trade value than play value: Renfroe (26). He just doesn’t feel like a starter on a good team. Good teams don’t keep many one dimensional players.
    4) Wait we did what?: Hosmer. A clown-show move for all time. Like an outtake from a Hangover movie, we wake to discover that we’ve chained ourselves to a stinking dead wildebeest. $123 mm over the next 7 years for a guy who refuses to hit the ball in the air. With full no trade protection through 2020! Best case scenario might be pulling a Shields-Tatis move after 2020, and before his 10 and 5 rights vest, and unload him and a portion of his salary on some other dumb team willing to pay for “leadership”. Until then we’re stuck with him.
    But how about this? Against RH pitching, it’s Hosmer at 1b and Myers at 3b. Against LH pitching, it’s Villanueva at 3b and Myers at 1b.

  5. Hedges/Mejia= Keep
    Hosmer/Naylor= Keep
    Urias= Keep
    Spangenberg-Asuaje-Pirela= Gone
    Galvis(resign)/Tatis= Keep
    Villanuevo= Gone
    Myers= Trade
    Renfroe / Reyes= Keep
    Margot= Gone
    Janakowski= Keep
    Dickerson= Comes back
    Richards= Gone
    Lamet= Comes back
    Luchessi= Keep
    Lauer= Keep
    Erlin= Keep (Long Relief)
    Wingergarten= Keep
    Diaz= Keep
    Strahm= Keep (Starter)
    Stock= Keep
    Costillo= Keep
    Yates= Keep
    Stammen= Keep
    Nix= Keep

    1. How much of Myers’ contract do you think they would have to pay in order to get another team to take him off their hands?

      1. I’d say they’d have to pay around half of it for a team to be interested in him, maybe a little less. He hasn’t been healthy or consistent since his all-star 2016 campaign so his value isn’t very high right now. Being probably the best hitter on the team, I would doubt the team trades him this winter. You never know with GM AJ Preller, though.

        1. How sad is that? The hoped-for “Face of the Franchise”—THE person the Padres gave away so much for—and now they can’t even give him away!

          1. What is MORE sad is that the Padres could not give way their next face of the franchise … and they would have to pay $50 to $100 million to get someone to take him off their hands. Worst of all, many fans still don’t get it.

    2. Lol who exactly, without a major drug addiction is going to trade for Myers? Or keep Jankowski? Half of these “keeps” are not MLB players on most clubs. I salute your optimism though but can you extend it to the management and ownership? Mac (throw off a bridge); Andy (drop off near the Grand Canyon); AJ and his father Ron (cordless bungie jumping)?

  6. I can imagine Richard being a long-relief pitcher next year. He and Erlin would probably do a fine job in that role. Rotation should include a lot of young guys like Lucchesi, Strahm, Lauer, Nix and possibly Quantrill/Allen. Most likely, Preller will trade for a veteran pitcher as well, or they will end up signing a free agent to effectively take Richard’s place.

    1. I guess but he might need to be able to pitch. Preller will probably go for James Shields, his era is in the “I want that” category for AJ. Isn’t it funny that we actually thing Preller is going to do a damn thing to help this club?

  7. Richard is a joke as our #1 to say the least. Padres, WAKE UP!!!!!! I’m sick and tired of Padres apologists from feebleminded broadcasters to delusional wishful thinking fans. Happy talk and endless promotions diminish the “game” I once loved. SOCCER, ANYONE?

    1. “like”. No, “love”. Yes. Lol, nail on the head dude. Don’t you love the punditry? You read anything and it’s like we have something to be happy about. They can keep polishing the turd, we’re not getting 70 wins any time soon, but it will feel like 100 wins. Wow, I love how good this team is on paper…. every year and every week.

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