San Diego Padres: The Resurgence Of Clayton Richard

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 16: Clayton Richard
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 16: Clayton Richard /

Ahead of Clayton Richard’s next start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, let’s take a look at how he has rebounded from an up-and-down start to the season.

When Clayton Richard signed a two-year deal this past offseason, his role was to be that of a mentor to a very young pitching staff. With the fall of Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet and the lack of a front of the rotation free agent signing, Richard is, yet again, the de-facto ace of the San Diego Padres pitching staff.

His last three starts have been masterful, thanks to another small adjustment.

Richard had to reinvent himself as a ground ball pitcher after undergoing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in February 2014. With a new release point and a renewed focus on getting groundball outs, Richard has been among Major League Baseball’s top ground ball pitchers over the past two years.

After being named the Padres Opening Day starter against the Milwaukee Brewers, Richard pitched seven innings, giving up six hits and one run while striking out four. Richard then struggled through the month of April. He posted a 6.41 ERA and didn’t make it past the 5th inning in four of his five starts.

After a rough month, Richard has rebounded tremendously during the month of May. Over his last three starts, he has gone at least seven innings in each, struck out 20 hitters, and walked one. Richard’s recent success can be partially attributed to Padres’ pitching coach Darren Balsley. According to an article written by Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune, raising Richard’s arm slot has helped him deceive hitters and be more effective over the course of each game.

He changed his delivery after surgery, throwing from a lower arm slot but is now returning to his higher release point.

San Diego Padres are benefitting greatly from Richard’s hot stretch.

Striking out 20 over his past three games is impressive and Richard has done it against three great teams. The Nationals, Cardinals, and Pirates are all projected to finish above .500 this year. Richard kept each club off-balance throughout his entire outings.

Richard’s last three starts:

It has taken time, but after getting used to the new arm angle the results have been phenomenal.

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Richard is getting hitters to swing and miss in addition to his normal ability to keep the ball on the ground. He’s induced 39 groundballs over his last three outings.

The stat that stands out is one walk over the last 23.1 innings. Not allowing free passes has helped Richard out of stressful innings and situations, while keeping his pitch count low. Keeping his pitch count low has allowed him to go at least seven innings each start. More importantly, the bullpen has earned some much-needed rest. Even with one of baseball’s best bullpens, having your starter go deep into games is crucial to maintaining fresh arms and keeping confidence in your pitching staff.

Keeping the baseball on the ground has always been one of Richard’s strengths, but his recent uptick in strikeouts bodes well for the Padres. If Richard can keep up this kind of production on a more consistent basis, he will continue to thrive and help the San Diego Padres win baseball games.

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Friday night’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers will paint a more clear picture of Richard. While he pitched very well against three good teams recently, how will his adjustments play against a divisional rival?

First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 pm PT.