03/4/20 Clayton Richard

Clayton Richard fields questions from the sports analytics club.

Major League Baseball pitcher Clayton Richard spoke to the Purdue Sports Analytics club on Wednesday about a variety of topics from pitching statistics to handling adversity. 

"It was a lot of fun," Richard said. "You can tell the group's operating at a high level intellectually, and it was fun to talk sports for a little bit."

Richard played baseball and football at McCutcheon High School in Lafayette before playing at Michigan and later being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2005. He made his MLB debut with the White Sox on July 23, 2008. After two seasons in Chicago, Richard played for the San Diego Padres, the Chicago Cubs and most recently the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Sports Analytics club president Jeremy Frank first contacted Richard via Twitter after Richard followed his account, @MLBRandomStats. Frank said that Richard followed his account "a few weeks ago," and Frank promptly direct messaged him and asked him to speak to the club.

"I was kind of surprised he followed me," Frank said. "I reached out, and the next morning he (said), 'I'd love to come in.'"

After giving a general statement about himself to the group, Richard opened the floor to questions. 

"With the name of the group, I was expecting they'd have a little higher sports IQ than other groups that I talk to."

Richard, who is currently a free agent, spent most of the time talking about the hardships he has faced, and how he is working toward being MLB-ready again. Richard has had three shoulder surgeries in his career, along with three knee surgeries. The most recent of those was a thoracic outlet surgery in his shoulder, which sidelined him for an entire year. 

"I had to make that comeback, which is very difficult now, I'm six years older. But I can't do anything about that."

Richard had advice for younger players going through similar struggles. 

"You have to go out of your way to find the answers," Richard said. "Because very rarely are they easy to come across. You have to be willing to go through trial and error, knowing that the answer is out there, but it just might be hard to find." 

Now, Richard spends a lot of his time training from home, getting help from his two sons, whom he and his wife homeschool.

"I built my house on the other side of Tippecanoe County," Richard said. "My boys, they're 6 and 7. They're my videographers."

After almost 40 minutes of baseball talk, the topic inevitably shifted to the Houston Astros cheating scandal. 

After last season, the Astros were accused of stealing pitching signs in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Being a pitcher, Richard had thoughts of his own.

"I hope it's not (more widespread)," Richard said. "I can say for a fact I've never been somewhere where something was done in real time.

"When you integrate a computer system, and algorithm that decodes those things, and they're able to adjust it so quickly because someone upstairs is watching a catcher, that's when it goes too far."

Richard said it is difficult to blame rookies or younger players for the cheating, because they may not know any better if they have never played for any other major league teams.

"If you're a rookie coming up, and you're in that situation, that's a tough draw," Richard said. "You might just think, 'That's what happens.'" 

Richard said his least favorite batters to pitch against include former shortstops Troy Tulowitzki and Juan Uribe, and Los Angelos Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. On the positive end, he said his favorite catcher to work with is Austin Hedges of the Padres. 

Richard's talk was attended by about 25 members of the club. 

"He was great," Frank said. "I think the people here enjoyed it. A lot of people in the club aren't just there for baseball, but I think even they were still interested in hearing a professional talk about what they go through."

Richard said he plans to continue to work out this spring, and hopefully have an idea of where he can play early in the season.

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