One2Watch4: Padres P Clayton Richard

When the Padres traded Jake Peavy – the face of their franchise - in July, the team immediately put pressure on the players it received in return.

The quickest payoff of the deal for the Padres is left-handed pitcher Clayton Richard. The 26-year-old is penciled in as San Diego’s fourth starter this season (behind Chris Young, Kevin Correia and Jon Garland) after a very respectable final two months of 2009.

Richard made 12 appearances for the Padres – all starts – and compiled a 5-2 record and 4.08 ERA. Where Richard excelled the most was PETCO Park, as he posted a 4-0 mark and 2.00 ERA in six starts. Breaking down the numbers further, he held opposing hitters to a paltry .254 slugging percentage at PETCO – good for sixth-lowest among NL pitchers with at least three starts in a specific park.

Lowest Opp Slug Pct at Single Park

NL Pitchers in 2009, Min. 3 Starts

One of the keys to Richard’s early success is his ability to get ground balls. His career groundball/flyball ratio is 1.00 – significantly better than the MLB average of 0.78 over the past two seasons. Richard’s number even improved a little with the Padres, jumping up to 1.07. Here is where Richard ranked in the category among NL starters 26 or younger with at least 50 IP last season.

Highest Groundball/Flyball Ratio by NL Starters, 2009
26 Years Old or Younger, Min. 50 IP

That number was better than many pitchers known for their ability to induce grounders – such as Mike Pelfrey (1.06), Adam Wainwright (1.04), Josh Johnson (1.00), Jeff Suppan (0.98) and Zach Duke (0.94).

Here’s one final nugget that Padres fans can get excited about:

Baseball-reference.com compares players’ statistics at similar ages throughout the sport’s history. Through the age of 25, who is Clayton Richard’s most similar pitcher? None other than Lefty Grove!

That alone makes Richard One2Watch4 in 2010.