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Opposing Pitcher Preview: 4/13-4/15: Richard, Wieland, Volquez

This series we get our second look at Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez, and get the opportunity to ruin a lifelong dream for Joe Wieland.

Again, information was pulled from fangraphs and baseball-reference. Joe Wieland's minor league numbers taken from www.minorleaguecentral.com

Friday, April 13: Clayton Richard (L) Act II

This is what I said last time we faced Richard:

Clayton Richard is yet another Padres starting pitcher who walks too many guys and doesn't strike out enough of them. Over the last four years, Richard has thrown his four seamer less and less, now relying on a two seamer 46% of the time and four seamer 13% of the time. Oddly, both pitches are thrown at 90mph so it's possible Pitch f/x just has a hard time telling the two apart. His main offspeed pitches are an 83mph changeup he throws 15% of the time and an 84mph slider he throws 21% of the time. He tends to throw his two and four seam fastballs to righties but not much at all to lefties. Likewise, he completely bags his changeup against lefties, preferring the slider as the offspeed pitch of choice.

You can see in the picture above that Clayton Richard doesn't really get too much bend in his back leg, which will take away a lot of velocity. Ever try jumping without bending your knees? Yeah, it doesn't work. His upper body is under control which will help him be somewhat accurate, but because he's mostly drifting forward with his lower half, he's going to lack a lot of the consistency demanded of a guy who averages 90mph on his fastball.

What Does This Mean?: His changeup and fastballs both have arm-side action, meaning that as a lefty they move into a lefty and away from a righty. Which makes sense considering he doesn't throw as many changeups to lefties. Left-handed hitters are notorious low ball hitters, and a changeup would just drift into their wheelhouse. I expect the lefties to once again struggle with a pitcher who relies on his slider, while the right-handed bats of Kemp, Rivera, and even Uribe could see some success against a guy with Richard's pitch selection and lack of velocity. But as with Luebke, it's going to come down to whether or not Dodger hitters can be patient enough to allow RIchard to work himself into hitter's counts rather than chasing slower pitches with movement and falling into poor contact and low-pitch count innings.

What has changed since then?: This will be Richard's second start of the season. In his last start against us, Richard relied on only three pitches: a 90mph two-seam fastball (72.3% of the time), an 85mph changeup (20.5%) and an 86 mph slider (7.2%).

Clearly, Richards' plan was to go right after the Dodger hitters, inducing as much poor contact due to pitch movement as possible. Richards only struck out three Dodgers, but he walked none, limited his mistakes to one big Matt Kemp home run, and came away with the only win against the Dodgers this year.

Saturday, April 14: Joe Wieland (R)

Joe Wieland makes his major league debut against the Dodgers on Saturday night. The 6'3" 195lb righty has cruised through the minor leagues. Drafted by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, Wieland was traded from the Rangers to the Padres with Robbie Erlin at the trade deadline last year for Mike Adams. Once again, the Padres turn a valuable reliever into an even more valuable major leaguer.

Wieland throws a low-90s fastball that can touch 94, a good curveball and an average changeup. The only reason he's even close to being a major leaguer is his ability to locate those pitches. over 160.7 minor league innings, Wieland has walked only 22 batters, none intentionally, for a BB/9 of 1.23.

What Does This Mean?: He has better keep locating those pitches. I guarantee he has yet to face a hitter in the minor leagues as good as even Juan Rivera, and if he misses up with a changeup to the wrong hot Dodgers #3 or #4 hitter, his night could be over quickly.

Sunday, April 15: Edinson Volquez (R) Act II

This is what I had to say about Volquez last time:

Part of the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Reds and Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso to the Padres, Volquez has a four pitch repertoire, but doesn't have a primary pitch. Traditionally, pitchers throw a fastball roughly 70% of the time and work their offspeed pitches off of that. Volquez throws a 93mph four seam fastball only 35% of the time while using a changeup (26%), cutter (21%) and sinker (17%). His last good year was 2008 with the Reds, and that year he threw his fastball 60% of the time and didn't use a sinker. I'm not sure if using a sinker was in response to his well-known lack of command or his arm surgery in 2009. Now two years removed from surgery and with a new team, I expect the Padres to push him back towards his fastball use of 2008 to see if he can regain some control and success.

Want to know why Volquez has control problems? Take a look at the picture above. Volquez has already landed, but his lower body has yet to open up and his arm is way the hell behind his head. In order to get to the proper release point, Volquez is going to have to take an arm path that is much shorter than desired which typically leads to inconsistent mechanics. It's also not hard to see how someone who throws as hard as he does but uses those mechanics would end up hurting himself.

What Does This Mean?: It means Dodger hitters are going to have to be especially patient, especially the first time through the order. Volquez also has a history of being significantly less effective in the first inning, so if the Dodgers can put a couple runs on the board early, it could be smooth sailing for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. I expect Andre Ethier to have a big game, and I expect Matt Kemp and Juan Uribe to struggle against a right-handed pitcher who utilizes many offspeed pitches. However, if Volquez is struggling with his control, we could see some sinkers left up in the zone for our hitters to pounce on.

What has changed since then?: This will be Volquez's third start of the season. In his first two starts, Volquez has stuck with the same mix from 2011, relying on a hard fastball with a lot of movement, a changeup and a cutter. A victim of the umpire in his first game against the Dodgers, Volquez was cruising through the first three innings with three strikeouts, no walks and the only hit a single by Clayton Kershaw. Then in the fourth inning, Volquez got squeezed then rattled, eventually walking in two runs and allowing four free passes and a wild pitch in the inning. Volquez seemed to take it out on the Diamondbacks in his next start, throwing 7 strong innings with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks, though it wasn't good enough for the victory.

Look for Volquez to get some revenge on the Dodgers (and his first win) in this series finale. It'll take more patience by Dodgers hitters and timely hitting to take this game from Volquez, otherwise we could be looking at another Clayton Kershaw no decision.

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