Does it seem like a guarantee that Clayton Richard will turn things around?
Alright, yeah, nothing is a guarantee in baseball. But at this point if you’re extremely optimistic about the next Pittsburgh Pirates reclamation pitching project working out, then you probably have plenty of company. And that’s what usually happens when the Pirates get good seasons out of guys like Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley.
A year ago, Volquez looked to many like a waste of $5 M for the Pirates, while Worley was pitching for the Twins and failing to make their rotation, eventually getting traded to the Pirates for cash. The combination of Ray Searage and Jim Benedict, plus the focus on pitch framing, plus the focus on defense, plus the defensive shifts, helped both pitchers put up strong numbers. Volquez turned his numbers into a two-year deal with the Royals, paying him much more than $5 M. Worley received a raise in arbitration, and now looks like the pitcher he was prior to his injury in 2012.
It’s one thing to turn around A.J. Burnett or Francisco Liriano. It’s a totally different thing to take two guys with no market and have them put up strong results in a Major League rotation.
And that brings us back to Richard, who was signed as a minor league free agent this off-season. I covered the changes he is making in today’s video feature. His situation is identical to Worley’s, and the Pirates were successful getting Worley back to his old mechanics. They were also successful getting Volquez back to his old mechanics. It’s like a video game, where you can import a player using the attributes from their best year, so you get the best possible version of that player. Except the Pirates have found a way to do this in real life.
If Richard is at his best, and you add the boost that the defense, pitch framing, and PNC Park will provide, then you could get solid middle of the rotation numbers from him. And I’d put a number on his spot on the depth chart, but let’s face reality. If I would have told you last year that Worley would have made as many starts as he did, you wouldn’t have believed me. You would have pointed to Jameson Taillon, Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton, Casey Sadler, and possibly bullpen guys like Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez, or mid-season options like Nick Kingham.
In the past, it would have been crazy to suggest the Pirates can get Richard’s 2010 performance, or better. Now? It just seems like you’re paying attention to what has been going on over the last few years.
Richard isn’t a “guarantee” to turn things around. But he certainly does seem like a strong bet, and that only helps strengthen the depth of the Pirates’ rotation. And if he does turn things around, it will be just another feather in the cap of Searage, Benedict, and the Pirates, making it that much easier for them to persuade the next reclamation project to come to Pittsburgh and accept their suggestions.
**Last night I teased an article that I said might end up being one of the best articles I’ve done for the site. It will go up tomorrow morning.
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