The Los Angeles Angels Rotation Is It’s Own Answer

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 29: Garrett Richards
OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 29: Garrett Richards /
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KANSAS CITY, MO – APRIL 14: Garrett Richards
KANSAS CITY, MO – APRIL 14: Garrett Richards /

Garrett Richards
6 starts, 3-1, 4.88 ERA, 1.52 WHIP

There isn’t one guy to be blamed for a collective mess, but if you had to pick one, you’d pick this guy. His April 28th start against the Yankees was a perfect illustration of what Richards’ problems this season have been: he allowed a one-out single, and then with a man on he has to pitch from the stretch and suddenly can’t throw a strike unless it was a batting practice fastball. A walk and an error followed, and then Richards predictably grooves a pitch that goes for a double, and the route was on. The next inning, he he allowed two more walks around two more extra-base hits.

Garrett Richards is going to turn 30 years old at the end of May. This is his eighth major league season and his tenth professional season. Despite having some of the best raw stuff — he still throws 98 MPH and possesses the highest spin rate of any slider in all of baseball — his inexplicable lack of composure with men on base is the definition of “cascading failure.” Nominally the ace of the rotation, Richards has become one of its biggest problems. Even in games where the Angels are winning handily, such as his April 14th start in Kansas City against a weak Royals lineup, a fifth inning lead-off walk triggered two more baserunners and three wild pitches. Asked to try to throw a sixth inning, Richards walked the leadoff man on five pitches, and forced Mike Scioscia to go to the pen.

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It’s been over two years since Richards has been a reliable starter. In what should be the prime of his career, he’s been spending most of that prime hunting for Strike One — he only throws that 52% of the time, one of the worst marks in baseball. This is Richards’ contract season; he’ll be a free agent after this year. His arm will earn him another contract, without question, but what he hasn’t earned is trust. For this season, there’s nothing the Angels can do but keep running him out there and hope that, the further he gets from his injury issues, the better he gets. For better or worse, the Angels can’t get the post-season without him.