Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA Today
After failing to make the playoffs the last four years, the 2014 Los Angeles Angels have turned into a championship caliber team. Much of their success have been accredited to the Angels’ hitting, but their rotation has also contributed, leading the team to a 57-37 record at the All-Star break.
One of their breakout pitchers who was recently snubbed of an All-Star selection is right-handed pitcher, Garrett Richards. Richards has never had a starting job, as he bounced around from the rotation and bullpen in his previous two years with the Angels. However, after earning the job in the preseasons, he has failed to disappoint.
In 19 starts, Richards has accumulated 11 wins and just two losses. He has won five straight decisions and has not lost a game since May 30.
The former first round pick drafted by the Angels and worked his way through the team’s farm system, has also managed to strike out 127 batters in just 123.1 innings, commanding the strike zone with ease. A huge difference seen in Richards over the past few years is his velocity.
From 2011-2013 the righty has thrown a fastball at an average of 95 miles per hour. As the 2014 season has progressed, his velocity on his fastball has increased two miles per hour. Aside from his four-seamer, Richards has a sinker and a slider in his arsenal, both of which have exceptional movement, as hitters struggle to make contact. He also has a curveball and a change-up that are not used as often as his other three pitches.
His arsenal has been a source of dominance, as he currently has a 9.27 K/9 rate, averaging just over a strikeout an inning.
Something common shown while Richards is on the mound is that he consistently has the upper hand against opposing batters. Currently ranked fourth with an ERA of 2.55, Richards has only been tagged with more than three earned runs three of his 19 times.
The 26-year-old has great stats on paper, but, if you look at more advanced stats, his stats are even better. For example, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is an astounding .264. He has never had a BABIP close to his current statistic, which could point towards a regression in the second half of the year. However, he has had such dominance against other hitters and has sustained this number for 19 starts, that if he regresses, it will only be a very little difference.
Richards’ best extended stat is FIP or fielder independent pitching on an ERA scale, which is currently 2.69. That number is considered elite, .21 better than what Fangraphs call ‘excellent’. It is approximately 1.12 higher than the league average. The only time Richards put up a FIP of 2.69 was when he appeared in eight games in 2009.
Richards can be considered a ‘sell high’ candidate, and has been since his fantastic start to the year. However, considering his potential and consistent 2014 season, Richards should be held unless the trade is heavily in that owner’s favor.