The Red Sox have done it. They've unlocked Nick Pivetta and fixed Garrett Richards. Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber? Fenway Park just laughs. Tyler Glasnow and the guy the A's called another Glasnow? Ha! Enjoy looking up at the standings and the pitching staff rankings because Boston has two aces incoming.
Okay, so I just drenched you with a bucket of sarcasm. The Red Sox didn't unlock Pivetta, although his shortened arm path last season has carried into 2021 with positive results. And the 1-2 punch of 'popular breakout guy who never breaks out' and 'always injured high strikeout guy' isn't better than those duos. But... did Boston fix Richards?
Some thoughts, notes and more:
--- Richards was so bad versus Toronto on 4/21 I feared for the Blue Jays' safety in the box and wondered if the Red Sox would soon shift Richards to the bullpen. It was scary and sad at the same time. Since then:
Richards alluded to some mechanical changes made after his 4/21 disaster. Not that we shouldn't believe him, but he clearly wasn't lying. Immediately, how Richards starts both the windup and the stretch changed. The first looks are from 4/21 and the second after changes:
In particular, notice the hand placement in the stretch and how Richards starts in a traditional, straightforward way out of the windup. Now, the changes:
Believe it or not, the top is indeed the windup; both kind of have the appearance of being out out of the stretch. What have the changes done? Well, only Richards and the Red Sox can truly answer.
In my opinion, and this is coming from someone who watched 95% of Red Sox games during the season, the simplicity has allowed Richards to be more on time with his arm path and its relationship to the rest of his body. To me, Richards looked like a guy whose arm was having difficulty catching up - and it is a long arm path - which affected his control and sometimes led to him fighting his lower half from impacting the finish to his delivery. For example, look at these pitch finishes with the pre-change version coming before:
That's a drastic change in where the push-off foot lands to complete the delivery. Now, I should note the above, pre-change version wasn't consistent because it was a 3-0 fastball Richards was trying to guide for a strike. However, the pre-change looks led to a finishing foot near the middle of the mound as opposed to Richards pushing off his back half and whipping his leg all the way around to dance and finish towards first base; it's a good example of a pitcher using more of his lower half in rhythm with his finish, and likely impacts his control.
Now, let's not get too carried away, especially considering Richards' injury history. However, it's obvious he's a different guy after the changes with improved control and the stuff has always been capable of missing bats at a good or better rate.
--- Kenta Maeda fantasy owners entered a two-start week desperate for some success. And he delivered tonight. Across 5.1 scoreless innings, Maeda punched out eight and gave up just two hits and two walks. At the beginning of the season, the Rangers' offense was a punchline. Lately, it hasn't. So, Maeda earned this one.
And he earned it with an improved slider, which averaged 100 RPM more than his season average, which resulted in a CSW% of 37%. Maybe more importantly, Maeda's fastball, which has been tattooed this season, wasn't put in play a single time and finished with a 45 % CSW%. Perhaps this gets Maeda going.
--- Cleveland has been desperate for outfielders for years. Keep an eye on Harold Ramirez in deeper leagues. Tonight, he hit a double 114.5 MPH and a single 113.5 MPH, started in left field and hit sixth against left-handed starter Daniel Lynch, who made his MLB debut. Ramirez hit .276/.312/.416 in 2019 for the Marlins with 11 homers, 54 runs and 50 RBI across 119 games/446 plate appearances. Once upon a time, Ramirez was a top 100 prospect known for his hit tool and speed. He can hit the ball really, really hard and if he starts hitting it in the air even a little bit more than he has in the past, Ramirez suddenly becomes interesting.
--- Speaking of Lynch, I was really intrigued once he settled in and stopped overthrowing his fastball. I imagine he was a bit shocked early in his outing when Jose Ramirez spit on back-t0-back good changeups and Amed Rosario fouled off a couple of quality, backfoot knuckle-sliders; those are whiffs at the alternate site.
Lynch showed feel for three pitches, and especially showed some glove-side command with his breaking ball. He touched 97.0 MPH, although his fastball worked better when he stayed within himself. I'm not going to rush to add him in 12-team leagues unless the matchups are favorable, but he showed flashes of being an intriguing 15-team add.