Opposing Pitcher Preview: 5/16-5/17 Richard and Volquez

Another two game series, the Dodgers face the last place Padres and go up against Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez for the third time in the young season.

Wednesday, May 16: Clayton Richard (L) Act III

This is what I had to say about Clayton Richard before we first faced him on April 8:

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?: After two starts, Richard is 1-5 which, although wins are a poor metric for judging the success of pitchers, kind of sums up his season thus far. He's allowed six home runs in 44 innings, his walk rate has remained high while his strikeouts haven't been there. He's sinking his fastball more than he did last year (59% vs. 46%) but his offspeed pitch usage has remained the same. Velocity-wise, he's throwing a tick harder on average than last year, but nothing to change a game plan for.

What to Watch For: The location of the changeups he's thrown this season have been incredible. His fastball, however, has been thrown over the heart of the plate an alarming number of times. He seems to be exactly who we thought he was.

Interesting Facts:

  • In 7 starts this year, Richard has 1 win, 1 no decision, and 5 losses. The win and no decision both came against the Dodgers.
  • Richard not only leads MLB in losses, he leads the league in errors committed by a pitcher.
  • He is 9th in MLB in hits allowed (47). Arizona's Ian Kennedy is 1st with 54. Richard will be 1st after Wednesday.
  • In his senior year of high school, Richard was named the state of Indiana's "Mr. Football" and "Mr. Baseball".
  • Was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Jake Peavy from the Padres to the White Sox.

Thursday, May 17: Edindon Volquez (R) Act III

This is what I said before we faced Volquez on Opening Day, April 5:

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?: Volquez still walks more hitters than his stuff should allow, but he strikes out a ton of guys to make up for it. He stays above the magical 2:1 K:BB ratio by striking out 8 per 9 innings despite the 4 walks per 9. The one thing that has changed significantly since last year is his ground ball rate. So far this season, Volquez has induced more groundballs than flyballs, which goes against his career averages. His pitch percentages and velocity are nearly identical to his 2011 full season totals.

What to Watch For: Just like the last two times out, expect lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and lots of 94mph hard-sinking fastballs. Volquez is the best pitcher on the Padres, but he pitches like he's scared of contact. Or, he pitches like he's trying to strike everyone out.

Interesting Facts:

  • Edinson Volquez has allowed more walks than any other pitcher in MLB this year.
  • In 2008, Volquez's best season by far, he led MLB in hit batsmen.
  • In 2001, Volquez signed with the Rangers out of the Dominican Republic under the name Julio Reyes. In 2003, during an immigration check, the Rangers found out his name was Edison Volquez. In 2007, the Rangers added the 'n' to Edinson after checking his birth certificate.
  • Also in 2008, Volquez finished 4th in NL Rookie of the Year voting, an award he was not eligible to receive.
  • Has been traded for Josh Hamilton and Mat Latos in separate deals.
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