To say that 2014 is a big season for Garrett Richards would be an understatement.
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are locked into the starting rotation, but beyond that it’s a competition. Richards and fellow teammates Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago and the newly signed Mark Mulder are among those outside looking in at three available spots—possibly two, if the Angels sign another starter.
Richards has been a swingman of sorts during his tenure with the Los Angeles Angels—pitching either in the rotation or out of the bullpen.
He finished 2013 strongly, pitching a total of 145 innings and going 7-8 with a 4.16 ERA.
Looking under the surface a bit more, we see that Richards showed plenty of growth last season.
He cut down on the amount of walks he issued—from 4.31 walks per nine innings in 2013 to 2.73 in 2014.
Another huge plus was that he induced ground balls at a 57.9 percent clip, which would have been second best in the league (behind Cleveland's Justin Masterson at 58 percent) had he been able to register more innings to qualify.
This is huge considering the Angels infield features very capable defensive players in Howie Kendrick (career 5.4 UZR/150 at second base), Erick Aybar (career 0.5 UZR/150 at shortstop) and Albert Pujols (career 6.2 UZR/150 at first base).
His home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9) stayed impressive at 0.74 in 2013. For his career, Richards owns an impressive 0.90 HR/9 rate in 230 innings.
His ability as a ground-ball pitcher should keep the home run rates down, as should his being able to pitch a majority of his games in Angel Stadium, Safeco Field and O.co Coliseum—all of which rank in the top 11 in terms of ballparks that allow the fewest home runs (per ESPN’s MLB Park Factors).
At worst, Richards should be a very capable mid-rotation starter for the Angels in 2014.
The knock on Richards is that his strikeout rates have always lagged behind the stuff he possesses—just 6.14 strikeouts per nine innings in his career. If the strikeout totals ever begin to match the stuff, he'll go from a No. 3 or No. 4 to a possible No. 2 in the rotation.
*Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com and ESPN