You can never have too much pitching. This is a fact. Even the World Series bound Astros and Dodgers used 11 and 10 starting pitching during their 2017 drive to the Fall Classic. For their part, the Angels have 13 different pitchers start games last year, when 12 of them starting more than 1 game. This year, the Angels have quite a few capable arms, so we’ll take a look at the guys who’ve pitched in the big leagues (no Shohei Ohtani or Jaime Barria) and what to expect out of them this year.
In part 1 we looked at the lefties
Part 2 we’ll be looking at the “veterans”
Part 3 will look at the rest / #5 guys
Age: 29 Throws: R
Debut: August 10th, 2011
Innings Pitched (MLB): 668.1
Pitch Repetoire: Fastball, Slider, Curveball
Garrett Richards has had his share of bad luck with injuries and has only pitched 52.1 innings over the past 2 season. Despite that, his 668 innings are the most among any current Angels pitcher. After his return late last season, Richards put up a 2.28 ERA and 2.44 FIP along with a 0.904 WHIP over 27.2 innings - an impressive and promising return.
Richards fastball repertoire consists of a 4 seam and 2 seam/sinker. He abandoned his changeup completely in 2017 after coming back from his elbow injury, but it’s not a big loss, having generated a .452 opponent batting average over 186 total pitches from 2011-2016.
Richards is the “King of spin”, who ranks among the top in the league with pretty much all of his pitches - and he throws some serious heat, ranking 11th in fastball velocity last season, 6th with his “sinker”, and 8th with his slider.
Last year, aside from dropping his changeup, Richards threw his sinker a bit less, his slider more, and his curveball at rate highest in his career. In 2017, Richards had the 4th best rate of out of zone contact with just a 45.2%. Corey Kluber was 1st at 43.2. He also had an overall 34.5% out of zone swing rate which was good for 22nd in the league.
When your fastball averages around 96MPH and can nearly hit 100, you are going to use it a lot - and Richards tosses it almost 60% of the time when you include both his 2 and 4 seamer. Both of these pitches produce a combined nearly 30% out of zone swing rate and induce a lot of ground balls, whith his 4 seam fastball inducing a ground ball 50% of the time. In terms of his sinker, Richards had the 3rd best pitch value in baseball last season.
The slider is Richards #2 pitch - and it is lethal. Last year hitters only managed a .125 AVG against this pitch and just .189 over his career. Richards gets nearly a 43.4% out of zone swing rate on this pitch and a 21.8% whiff rate. He also manages an elite 45.5% K rate. Also - infielders are ready for a ground ball when he breaks out this pitch along with it’s 75% ground ball rate and just 6.3% fly balls. When the bottom drops out like this - good luck with your launch angle.
Just when you thought his fastball repertoire and slider were all he need, Richards also brings a knockout curveball. Though he doesn’t throw it all that often, he has a career .137 BAA with this pitch and over the past two season (58 pitches), hasn’t allowed a single hit. Like his slider, it generates a very high number of ground balls at 66.7% and a nearly identical out of zone swing rate of 43.5%. His over the top curveball has twice as much vertical drop as the league average and has been best in the league over the length of his career.
What to expect in 2018
Like many Angels pitchers, Richards is hoping his injury years are behind him. Steamer predicts he’ll toss around 142 innings which is pretty realistic if he stays healthy. Along with Shohei Ohtani, Richards has the potential to be the ace of this staff in 2018 and a full healthy year from him would bode well for a playoff race. Steamer predictions seem a bit modest to me with a 3.67 ERA, 8.27 K/9 and a 2.6 WAR. Assuming he is healthy, he has the potential to top all 3 of those.
Age: 31 Throws: R
Debut: Sept 20th, 2013
Innings Pitched (MLB): 514
Pitch Repetoire: Fastball, Splitter, Slider, Curveball
Matt Shoemaker debuted just 3.5 years ago, yet his 514 IP are the second most on the team. He throws a lot of different pitches (including a 4 seam/2 seam combo like Richards) but rarely pulls out his curveball. Last season was pretty rough for Shoemaker who put up career worst number in ERA (4.52), FIP (5.13), WHIP (1.300), and BB/9 (3.2). It also didn’t help that he missed the entire second half of the season with a forearm injury that ultimately ended his season with surgery in early August.
For some reason last year, Shoemaker dropped his splitter usage about 8%. The rise and fall of his success has appeared to be tied to his best pitch. Looking at 2017, he threw his splitter the most in April and May and had most success in those months. Given that he went down with his injury in June, that could be tied to his decreased usage as well as decreased effectiveness given that his June ERA was 5.51.
Shoemaker used his fastball about a quarter of the time last year (50% when you include his sinker). His 4-seamer has about average speed with above average movement. He’s good at throwing the pitch for strikes and put it in the zone 60% of the time - more than any other pitch. Despite all those in zone pitches, Shoemaker gave up a pretty decent .242 AVG and only 2 home runs.
Next to his curve, which he didn’t throw much, Shoemaker’s sinker was his most hittable pitch to the tune of a .310 BAA and a 39% line drive rate. His sinker also only generated a measly 3.1% whiff rate but at least it had a 45.8% ground ball rate - second only to his splitter.
The pitch value on Shoemaker’s splitter went from 11.8 in 2014 to 1.0 in 2015 to 13.5 in 2016 and -0.2 in 2017. If you see a trend here - there appears to be one in that every other year his splitter is king. Despite that, he still managed a 51.1% out of zone swing and pretty elite 22.1% whiff rate. Shoemaker’s splitter is also still is #1 pitch to induce a groundout which he did 49.3% of the time.
Opposing hitters slugged more fly balls (56%) off his slider than any other pitch. But like any halfway decent slider, it’s going to generate whiffs which Shoemaker did at a 12.7% clip but had a less than impressive out of zone swing rate around 24% which is not so great when you only throw the pitch in the zone 38.5% of the time.
Shoemaker’s curveball is a rare sight and he only threw 22 of them last year, which is just fine since it’s a below average bender. He doesn’t throw it much against righties, with only 7 total curves thrown over the last two years vs. 55 against lefties.
What to expect in 2018
If Shoemaker can command his pitches well - especially his fastball and splitter, he is a force to be reckoned with. His surgery was a success and he was throwing again by September, so Shoemaker should be healthy and ready for spring training next month. Steamer predicts he will hit 120 innings with a 4.26 ERA, 7.87 K/9 and 1.4 WAR. I would expect he could top 120 innings if he stays healthy and he could have a 2+ WAR season if he can throw like 2016 or 2014. Hey, the even year thing worked for the Giants - right?