Considering Clayton Richard

Friends & Enemies: Andy Pettitte Splits
So...Would You? (Part I)

Now that Andy Pettitte has made his retirement official, the Yankees are going to be linked with starting pitcher free agents and trade targets from now until conceivably the end of August. For rumor-junkies this is the only pleasant thing about the Yankee rotation being the baseball version of Two and a Half Men. On Friday morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Yankees had considered a bevy of left-handed trade targets. The list ranged from ugly (Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir) to mildly intriguing (Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard and Gio Gonzalez). We’ll start with Richard.

Clayton Richard was an eighth-round pick by the White Sox in the 2005 draft. After spending a half-season in A ball he spent his first full season in 2006 by splitting time between Low A and High A. The results were modest: he threw 119 innings of 3.85 ERA ball with a low strikeout rate (5.0/9) and an average walk rate (2.6/9). The most interesting aspect to his 06 season was how hittable he was, as he yielded over 11 hits per nine innings. In 2007 he repeated his season in High A ball. He lowered his ERA slightly to 3.63 and his hit rate to 8.9/9. However, his strikeout rate stayed stuck in the Joe Saunders zone (5.0/9) and his walk rate actually got worse, rising to 3.3/9.  The best takeaway from the season was his high innings total, 161.1 innings.

In 2008 Richard was promoted to AA and responded positively. The best sign was improved control, and as he lowered his rate to 1.7 BB/9. His hit rate again dropped, but this might be related to an unusually low BABIP of .238. Richard was promoted midseason to AAA and found the environment to his liking. Here he was able to drop his walk rate again, to a microscopic 0.8 BB/9, while while bumping his strikeout rate to 6.8/9. It was a small sample (44 innings), and Richard was 24 years old at the time, but his 2.45 ERA and 8.25 K/BB ratio were impressive nonetheless.

The White Sox promoted Richard to the major league team in 2008 and the results were very similar to his 2006 season in A ball: very hittable (11.5 H/9) with modest peripherals (5.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9). Richard appeared three times in relief and started eight times, and ended the year with an ERA of 6.04 and a FIP of 4.07. Richard only pitched 15 innings more than he had in 2007, but it’s still at least possible that he was fatigued after a long season.

2009 represented Richard’s first full-season major league debut, with mixed results. He began the season pitching out the bullpen for the White Sox. He totaled 16 innings in 12 appearances, striking out 10 and walking 5, good for a 4.41 FIP. On May 12 he transitioned to the rotation and got pretty similar results: 72 innings of 4.73 ERA ball, a 6.99 K/9 and a 3.99 BB/9. Richard was then traded to the Padres as a part of the Jake Peavy deal, and found the confines of Petco Park to be a bit more hospitable. He pitched 64 innings of 4.08 ERA ball with 48 strikeouts and 38 walks. If you remove two blowups on August 27 against the Braves and September 7 against the Giants (combined 6.1 innings and 12 ER), the numbers are even better: 65.1 innings of 3.58 ERA ball with a 6.5 K/9 and a 5.2 BB/9. It’s worth noting though that the lion’s share of these starts came in September, meaning that the opposing lineups may not have been their strongest. It also shows that even when getting decent results, Richard was still struggling with control. His walk rate was simply too high.

Richard entered 2010 with a spot in the rotation for the rebuilding San Diego Padres. By conventional measures his season was a success: he went 14-9 with a 3.75 ERA. There were plenty of positive signs about Richard’s year: he pitched over 200 innings for the first time in his career, and he managed to keep his strikeout rate relatively high by his standards (6.8) while attempting to keep the walks at bay (3.5 BB/9). His year was worth 2.3 fWAR to the Padres.

Richard is a big lefty, standing in a 6’5″ and 240 pounds. He generates a decent amount of groundballs but it would be inaccurate to describe him as a groundball artist. He features a fastball in the low-90s and leans on it heavily, mixing in sliders and changeups as his two complementary offspeed pitches and occasionally dropping a show-me curveball. Richard used to pitch with a low 3/4 arm angle when he was with the White Sox. At some point he altered it and now pitches more over the top, but it’s difficult to locate some hard information on when exactly he made the change, which would enable us to track whether the alteration resulted in an improvement in results. For what it’s worth, Keith Law was more bullish on Richard now that he made the change.

All said, Richard’s greatest asset isn’t the fact that he throws left-handed, gets a fair amount of groundballs and has an acceptable K/BB ratio. His greatest asset is his cost. Richard will make a little over $420,000 in 2011, and should see a bump into the $1-2M range in 2012, meaning that he won’t be “expensive” for the Padres until 2013 at the earliest. For this reason, it seems unlikely that San Diego would be interested in moving him. The Padres are in the midst of rebuilding, having dealt Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox for Pedro Clemens and other prospects, kicking the contention can down the road several years. If they were to deal Richard now they’d probably be looking for prospects who could make an impact in 2012 or 2013.

The easiest matches for the Yankees in the trade market are going to be with teams looking to cut cost. While Richard would be useful as a back of the rotation option for the Yankees, he has good value to the Padres for the next three years. A match between the two teams seems unlikely. Richard might be attractive if the Padres were giving him away in a salary dump, but the idea of giving up decent prospects in return for him is simply unappealing. Now if the Padres want to discuss Mat Latos, that’s a different story.

Friends & Enemies: Andy Pettitte Splits
So...Would You? (Part I)
  • icebird753

    No, no way. His #’s definitely were helped by PETCO

    • Mike

      Just wanted to look this up to make sure. I mean a lot of people say such things about pitchers who have advantages put up better numbers in pitchers ballparks, same for hitters in hitters ballparks. This is usually the case, but not always

      However I looked up Clayton’s numbers at home and away. I’ll only post ERA though. I know ERA isn’t the only stat to look at, but when you see the difference, you’ll say No Way

      Career ERA
      Home- 3.57
      Away- 4.92

      • Rob

        I took a glance at his numbers and he got killed at Coors:

        7/11 – 5.2 IP, 6 ER
        9/15- 3.0 IP, 8 ER

        July was also a little rough but do you think he could pitch well at Yankee Stadium?

        I think he could survive in the AL East, I would just worry about the prospect you’d have to give up for him.

  • Craig

    Any consideration that Wade LeBlanc is garnering needs to be shut down immediately. There is absolutely no room for that soft tossing junker – especially if the Yanks have to trade for him.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Pedro Clemens

    Love it. I would have also accepted Hypey McBusterson

  • peter

    Clayton Richard impoved as the season progressed
    Whoever doesnt want him in their rotation is nuts!
    He pitched huge games down the stretch even away from Petco
    If anything it was Latos who tired and weekend
    I watched the Padres everyday and Im a dye hard Yankee Fan
    Yankee fans get tunnel vision and get stuck on numbers and reputation
    Padres wont get rid of him!
    Its gonna even be more of a shock when the Padres are better than last year even loosing Adrian
    There lineup is better all around and there defense is One of best up middle. With there Pitching I beleive best in baseball the Padres will go deep into season in contention.

    • Steve H

      If anything it was Latos who tired and weekend

      So you’re saying Latos is a Monday-Friday kind of pitcher?

    • Steve H

      First half ERA: 3.33
      Second half ERA: 4.30

      September ERA: 4.98

      How exactly did he improve as the season progressed?

    • Sayid J.

      “Yankee fans get tunnel vision and get stuck on numbers and reputation”

      The numbers are what they are. If he had a 4.30 ERA in the 2nd half, then that’s exactly how he pitched in the 2nd half. There’s nothing else to it. He had a few good road starts at the end of the season, but that does not make a player worth trading for. I’d rather have Yankee fans get stuck on numbers and reputation than anecdotal evidence that doesn’t hold true.

    • icebird753

      Saying you want Richard back though is like saying you’d want IPK back. Both are similar; they struggled in the AL before finding success in the very weak AL West. Kennedy had more strikeouts, is younger, and had very very similar numbers to Richard. But why does no one want Kennedy? Because he struggled in the AL before. But so did Richard….this would be a dumb move if the Yankees ever pursued it, and I doubt they would

  • NJYankeeFan

    The yanks can fill the 4th and 5th spots from the Garcia/Colon, Nova, Noesi,Phelps,Warren,Aceves , Brackman group. They need a legit #2 or 3 at some point this year who’s not gonna get bombed by the best teams in the AL and who can start a game 2 or 3 in a playoff series and I don’t think Richards or any of those other guys mentioned qualifies.

    • Steve (different one)

      Yes, I can’t think of anyone on their staff capable of starting Game 2 of a playoff series.

      Hopefully the Yankees will win #27 this year!! It’s been 10 years since our last championship!!

  • JAG

    As with all things, it depends on the cost required. B/c of his salary, I can’t see the Padres feeling a need to trade him, so they’d be looking for actual impact prospects, even if they’re a few years away. Anybody we have like that would at this point be just as likely as Richard to succeed in NY or are high-ceiling enough that they’re not worth giving up for a guy who has only had 1 good year in the majors. If we’re giving up some High A prospect who is 2+ years away or something then that’s one thing, but I don’t see San Diego parting with him for someone like that.

    • Mike HC

      How about one of our top middle infielders (Nunez or Adams) and a couple of our secondary pitching prospects. From the little I know, that does not seem like an unreasonable trade for either side. It is not like anybody is confusing Richard with an all star just because he had one solid year in a pitchers ballpark, league and division.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        Adams + like Jose Ramirez? For guy guy who strikes out 7 per 9 and walks 3.5 batters in the NL WEST?!?

        The dude will get destroyed in the AL. Jose and Adams can get you someone better than that.

  • Steve (different one)

    Yes, as the article mentions, SD has no motivation, so I have no idea why Rosenthal even mentioned him.

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      Yankee story + *insert starter here* = hits.

  • BronxByte

    Scott Kazmir is worth some thought. More familiar with the AL and in particular, the AL East.
    If he gives a good 6 innings as a No. 4 or 5 starter, the bullpen manages the rest of the innings. His contract is up after 2011 so he has something to prove and is still only 27.

    • whozat

      Thought has already been given to scott kazmir, on this very website. He’s no good anymore.

    • Kiersten

      I’m familiar with the AL East, it doesn’t make me a good fit for the rotation.

    • Zack

      Declining velocity, declining K9, rising BB9, numerous injuries, not being good for 2 years.

      What other red flags do you need in order to say pass?

  • JohnnyC

    We need to trade for Bronson Arroyah! Now!

  • Kiersten

    Does he pass the better than Sergio Garcia test?

    Nope. Move along.

    • Mike HC

      Yea, but a lefty version of someone who is probably a hair better than Mitre is still a nice addition.

      • Kiersten

        If we have to give up anything of value, it’s not.

        • Mike HC

          Like I wrote above, would Nunez/Adams and a couple of our secondary pitching prospects be too much value? None of those are really expected to be anything other than fringe players anyway. Not sure if the Yanks or Pads would go for it. Just throwing that out as a possible deal. Or at least that is the type of package I would offer around the league and see what I could get.

          • The Real JobaWockeeZ

            Yeah when they could be valuable throw ins. And Adams was never projected to be a fringe player. A solid second baseman yes but not a bench guy.

            • Mike HC

              Even better. Adams definitely does not have a spot on the team long term, so he almost has to be traded. Not saying we should get rid of him for nothing though.

              • Andy in Sunny Daytona

                Now that Robbie has hired Boras, you never know what will happen down the 2nd base road.

                • Mike HC

                  good point.

  • Mike HC

    I would definitely like to add a lefty back end of the rotation starter, or even long man in the pen type of guy. I think we should be able to get one of these guys giving up a couple of secondary type prospects, but who knows?

  • Ted Nelson

    I’m not too excited about Richard and the asking price would likely be too high. Worth considering though. Maybe if he and the Padres struggle to start this season you’re not buying high and it makes more sense.

  • Pasqua

    Less money owed will likely translate into more prospects required in terms of a trade. Nothing exciting enough about him (except, maybe, his being lefty and a decent strikeout rate) to warrant the price.