Rich Hill was the star of a surprising comeback this past season in Major League Baseball. His story started with a short stay in the Independent League with the Long Island Ducks during 2015 to being the co-ace with the Los Angeles Dodgers alongside star Clayton Kershaw during the just ended postseason.
Things now have become more improbable for the 36-year old as this winter there are very few starting pitchers in the free agent market, which has made him the league’s most coveted starter on the market.
Whatever club eventually signs the left-hander will use his recent play as a reason rather than his prior career, one where injuries have kept him from pitching 100 innings every year but twice since 2005.
From a torn labrum to torn ligaments in his elbow, Hill’s struggles with consistency and durability make it hard to project his short-term future let alone the long term.
However, Hill’s 2016 season was highly successful and must be taken into consideration by teams looking for a left-handed starter.
Though Hill is unable to match any of his peers’ durability, he has been as dominant as any other starter of late.
Over the past two seasons, Hill has an ERA of 2.00, which is ranked second behind just the 1.96 of Kershaw amongst starters that have thrown a minimum of 120 innings.
Hill also had a .183 opponent batting average along with a 0.39 home run allowed per nine innings since the beginning of the 2015 season, which is the best of any starter in baseball.
In March, Hill turns 37 but has pitched just 610-plus during his 11-year career that has been marred with injuries.
Hill was able to pitch more than 100 innings this past season for just the first time in 9 years.
When thinking about Hill’s arsenal of pitches a nasty set of curve balls enter one’s mind, but his sneaky quick fastball has surprised many at the plate.
His fastball averaged almost 91 mph during 2016, but opposing hitters whiffed 34.6% of the time with their swings. That made Hill’s fast ball the best fastball on swing and miss in all of baseball.
Hill’s curve ball is one of magic. He used it close to 50% of the time during last season. He allowed only two hit balls that were referred to as barrels in the 900 curves thrown last season.
Those two hits were in the first six starts Hill made during the season for Oakland. That means not one barrel was given up by Hill in his final 14 starts during the regular season.