Why Trevor Richards is such an important part of the Blue Jays bullpen

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
18 days ago
Strikeouts are the best way to get a batter out
This is because you don’t need to rely on the defence behind you. It’s you, your battery mate, and the batter. Since the beginning of the 2021 season, Spencer Strider’s 37.2 K% is the highest for any pitcher with a minimum of 200 innings pitched. Tyler Glasnow is second with a 34.7 K%, while the best player ever, Shohei Ohtani, has a 31.4 K%, slightly better than this article’s feature.
When you think of Trevor Richards, what do you think of? Some may point out his rough starts and his fantastic middle part of the season before getting hit hard at the end of the season. Personally, I think of one of the best strikeout artists in the league, as his 31.3 K% since the beginning of the 2021 season is the sixth-best in the league.
For context, only Strider, Glasnow, Carlos Rodón, Blake Snell, and Ohtani have better strikeout rates since that time (minimum 200 innings), while Richards ranks ahead of Freddy Peralta, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burns, Dylan Cease, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, and I think you get my point.
In early July of 2021, the Blue Jays traded backup first baseman Rowdy Tellez to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Richards, along with Bowden Francis. After the trade, Richards had a 3.31 ERA and a 4.61 FIP in 32.2 innings pitched, with a 30.3 K% and an 8.2 BB%. Regardless of what Tellez did with Milwaukee, this was a win for the Jays as Richards (as well as Adam Cimber) helped stabilize the Jays’ bullpen.
The 2022 season was a mixed bag for Richards, as he had a 5.34 ERA and a 4.07 FIP in 64 innings pitched, along with a 29.2 K% and a 12.5 BB%. However, after coming off the Injured List with a neck strain, Richards posted a 4.33 ERA and a 2.69 FIP in 35.1 innings pitched to end the season, along with 32.2 K% and a 12.5 BB%.
On the surface, Richards had similar numbers in 2023, posting a 4.95 ERA and a 4.22 FIP in 72.2 innings pitched, along with a 33.3 K% and an 11.1 BB%. However, the injury had a reverse effect, as he had a 2.98 ERA and a 3.73 FIP in 54.1 innings pitched with a 36.9 K% and a 10.2 BB% prior to a neck strain injury on August 1.
When Richards returned on August 19, he had a 10.80 ERA and a 5.66 FIP, while his K% dropped to 24.4% and his BB% increased to 13.3% in 18.1 innings pitched.
Richards is in the midst of having the typical “Trevor Richard’s experience” in Spring Training as well, as he has a 4.35 ERA and a 4.52 FIP in 10.1 innings pitched, along with a 37.5 K% and 12.5 BB% while giving up two home runs.
That begs the question, why is Richards so good? Well, as you know, he has a changeup that looks like a left-handed pitcher’s slider. Last season, Richards’ changeup had a 47.8% whiff%, the seventh-highest whiff% on any pitch, and the highest whiff% for a changeup.
Usually, a changeup has a low spin rate. From this PRP article, which tells young players how to develop a changeup, it notes that a changeup usually has 500-800 less RPM than his fastball, meaning most player’s changeups have an RPM under 2,000. In fact, there were only 67 pitchers with a minimum of 200 plate appearances in 2023 with a changeup that had an average RPM above 2,000 of 287 total pitchers that fit this category.
Richards is far above the 2,000 RPM mark, as his changeup had an average of 2,572 RPM, being only one of two pitchers with an RPM above 2,500. The other one is Devin Williams, who is among the league’s best closers.
Of course, Richards’ isn’t perfect by any means. The fastball averaged 92.8 mph, which is below the MLB average. However, even his fastball has some exciting properties. Have you ever heard of a “rising fastball”? Well, Richards’ fastball averaged  3.5 inches of vertical movement, second in the league behind Alex Vesia.
At the end of the day, Richards needs to have pinpoint command with the fastball to set up the devastating changeup. When he lacks command, he walks batters and gives up home runs. But when Richards is on, which he was for most of last season, he is a very important piece to the Blue Jays bullpen.
The 2024 season may be Trevor Richards’ last as a Blue Jay as he’s set to become a free agent at season’s end. Hopefully, he can put it all together this season and become even more important in the Jays bullpen.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.


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