By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer -
First a trivia question: Who is the missing 10th member from the following list of 2013 starting pitchers?
Perhaps the more important question is would you like to see the Angels acquire/sign the missing player based simply on the quality of the other names on that list?
What if I also told you that the missing player gave up fewer home runs every 9 innings than Stephen Strasburg? Would that pique your interest?
What if I also told you that the missing player walked fewer batters every 9 innings than Jose Fernandez? That should get you excited, right?
Still not there yet?
What if I also told you that the missing player has the highest groundball percentage out of that entire group? In fact out of all 139 pitchers that threw 100 innings or more last year, this pitcher has the 11th highest ground ball to fly ball ratio, making him a real groundball machine! That has to give you a warm-fuzzy right?
The list above contains the names of the top 10 hardest thrown fastballs (vFA) by starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched in 2013 and the missing player is none other than our very own Garrett Richards!
Garrett’s fastball (vFA) velocity is pretty elite and when you combine it with his hard slider (vSL), change-up (vCH), and curveball (vCU), along with low home run and walk rates, you have the ingredients for a quality starting pitcher.
Now Richards is still young and making adjustments to Major League hitters so the expectations should be tempered with the realization that Garrett still has a lot to learn. Garrett’s learning arc would best be served by a spot in the back-end of the rotation where the pressure to be “the guy” is reduced and he can just focus on making his pitches on a consistent basis.
Although the Angels should still approach their off-season with the goal of acquiring a front-of-the-rotation starter, the front office has to be pleased with Garrett’s potential and progress that he made last season and what it could mean for the team’s success in 2014.
For Garrett to really triumph he will really have to learn to trust the movement in all of his secondary pitches. Richards’s slider has solid wipeout potential and if he can increase the use and quality of his curveball, which has excellent vertical drop, along with even a merely average change-up he will be a force to be reckoned with on the mound.
One final detail is that Garrett will have to find a way to get left-handed hitters out on a more consistent basis. Over his Major League career LHH’s have gotten under the ball (home runs) nearly twice as much as RHH’s. This is why it would be important for Garrett to improve the quality and use of his change-up as it could help mitigate left-handed hitters and the damage they do against him.
2014 will be Garrett’s year to really shine and show what he can do in a full season of starts for the Halo’s. I for one don’t think he will disappoint!