The man with the most innings pitched at Petco Park is going to be back in a Padres uniform through 2019.
The 34-year-old veteran ate 197.1 innings for the Padres last season, the most of all Padres pitchers last season.
At the age in which most pitchers reliability starts to decline, the ground ball pitcher has been the most reliable of pitchers for the Padres.
Richard’s 4.75 ERA and 15 losses last season weren’t the prettiest, but his 197.1 innings pitched is exactly what the Padres are looking for. While most of the Padres’ starting pitchers of the future are in the lower minor leagues, right now they need a guy who can come in to eat innings and get through games until they arrive.
Richard led the Padres in innings pitched and he was one of 22 pitchers to pitch a complete game, something that seems to be rare in today’s league. He also came in the top 16 for innings pitched this season, meaning he hurled more innings than roughly around 165 other regular starting pitchers. Thus, the reason the Padres decided to sign the 34-year-old on for two more seasons.
Contract and Experience
Clayton Richard has pitched over 1,080 innings in his career and is showing no signs of having to slow down as he went into at least the 6th inning 25 times in his 32 appearances.
With many young guys coming up through the system, it will be good for Richard, someone who knows San Diego and Petco Park like no other
pitcher player on the team, to be around to mentor the young arms.
Another plus to having Richard around is the ridiculously cheap price in which the Padres were able to bring him in. For just $3 million per season, the Padres have a guaranteed rotation spot (something that has seemed like a luxury recently)– and an experienced, reliable one at that.
With how much certain starting pitchers on the market are going for and the hype for the upcoming 2018 free agent class, getting Richard for just $3 million a year was a steal.
Clayton Richard led MLB in hits allowed with 240. Despite pitching fewer innings than just 15 other pitchers, he still managed to allow more hits than all of them. All of these hits led to 114 runs allowed, with 105 of them being earned runs.
Sure the Padres “aren’t trying to win” as of right now, but at Richard’s age, and the uncertainty of the Padres’ bullpen, a lot of hits may not be the best thing for the staff. The more hits allowed, the more pitches Richard has to throw. The more he throws, especially at age 34, the more of a risk factor comes into play with both injury and fatigue.
If Richard’s ability to prevent runners from getting on base continues to decline over the next two years, we may not be looking at the inning-eating, lock-down rotation spot we saw last season. Even Jered Weaver threw 178+ innings the year before he came to San Diego and blew up.
The Padres’ infielders already have a lot on their plate with the amount of ground balls Richard produces. If many of those continue to get through for hits, then we could be looking at some long innings/games with Richard on the mound.
Although he hasn’t really shown much yet, despite giving up the most hits in his career, Richard is at the age point where pitchers normally start to decline.
Despite not showing much of and aging problem yet, when guys start to dive into the second half of their 30’s, it is definitely something that we need to be keeping an eye out for.
Signed on for two more years at just $3 million a pop, this is a steal for the Padres. For the next two seasons we get, hopefully, a solid starting rotation spot that we don’t have to worry about. If he can continue to eat 170+ innings per season, then Richard will be the perfect transition piece while the young arms work their way up the farm.
Once the young arms do arrive, Richard is the perfect example for them follow. His professionalism, love for the game, and dedication to the organization are all things he can implement in to the kids getting off the bus in San Diego for the first time.
Another possible outlook for Richard, especially under the unpredictable A.J. Preller, is that he could be used as a trade piece to a contending team. Seeing as how important early/middle relievers were to teams in the playoffs, it makes perfect sense that a contender could come calling at the deadline, especially with Richard’s low contract. It would be a low risk/high reward situation for the contenders, and with Richard being so reliable, Preller could probably pluck a couple of worthy prospects.
Either way, Clayton Richard will be a key veteran piece in the transition from last place to playoff contenders for the Padres.