Red Sox

Study: Red Sox’ Garrett Richards sees big spin rate dip sans sticky stuff

A study by the New York Times revealed Richards has lost significant revolutions on his fastball, which has coincided with a drop in the pitch's effectiveness.

Garrett Richards Red Sox
Garrett Richards. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Red Sox starting pitcher Garrett Richards’s quest to reinvent himself following MLB’s foreign substance crackdown continues to be an arduous one.

Since the league began enforcing its rules and checking for sticky substances that help pitchers improve their grip, Richards has seen his ERA balloon from 4.09 to as high as 4.96 (it’s now at 4.91). He’s given up four or more earned runs in four of his last six starts, and he hasn’t pitched six or more innings in a game in nearly two months.

It’s true, of course, that offense is generally up throughout Major League Baseball after a trying start to the season. Though strikeout and walk rates haven’t changed much in either league since June 15, basically every other major batting statistic, from average to slugging percentage to wRC+, has shot up. So Richards isn’t unique in struggling to contain offenses.

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But his normally electric stuff appears to be suffering more than almost any other pitcher’s in the league.

A study by the New York Times revealed that Richards’s fastball spin rates suffered the third-largest drop of the 131 pitchers in its analysis, which dates back to 2017. Though the Red Sox hurler’s fastball has generally been just a touch below his season average in his starts since the rule changes, his heater has lost an average of 206 revolutions per minute over that time frame.

Only James Kaprielian of the Oakland Athletics and Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, have seen their fastball spin rates dip more than Richards’s since June 15. During that time frame, his fastball has recorded a better-than-average pitch value in a start just once according to Fangraphs — his latest appearance on July 9 against Philadelphia.

Richards’s fastball especially failed him in the three starts immediately after the substance crackdown, with his fastball being one of his worst pitches in terms of runs above average.

Despite his manager’s insistence that spin rate wasn’t a problem, Richards fueled the conversation with his wrathful comments about the new regulations. But his numbers have slowly trended in the right direction as he’s allowed five earned runs in his first two starts of the month.

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“I’ve had to reinvent a lot of things, but I’ve already talked about that stuff, so I’m trying to move forward,” he said after his latest start. “I’m trying to improve. I’m about taking steps forward now.”

He’ll try to keep that momentum going against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday evening and add to a more positive overall trend for Red Sox pitchers, who have a better ERA since MLB’s new substance enforcement rules than they did before it.

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