7th Best All-Time Astros Starter
J.R. Richard by Cody Poage
Coming in at number seven on our list is none other than J.R. Richard, who may be the one of the most tragic figures in Astros franchise history.
Drafted by the Astros with the second overall pick in the 1969 amateur draft, the Vienna, Louisiana native made his major league debut on September 5th, 1971 as the starting pitcher against the San Francisco Giants. In the same game, he struck out fifteen Giants, three of which came against the legendary Willie Mays. However, the imposing right-hander didn’t become a mainstay within the Astros rotation until 1975 due to command issues.
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But once he was given an opportunity in to stay in the rotation, Richard dominated his opponents. From 1976-80, the imposing right-hander never finished with less than 18 wins, and actually finished with 20 wins in 1976. He also led the National League in strikeouts twice and was the ERA leader in 1979 (2.71).
And it appeared in 1980 that he had only improved from the previous seasons. In 17 starts that season, Richard had a record of 10-4 with a 1.90 ERA/1.94 FIP. He was truly on the top of his game. And this was the same season that Richard earned his lone All-Star nomination.
Unfortunately, the success wasn’t meant to last as Richard suffered a stroke in July of that year and was unable to resume his major league career afterward. However, Richard left a lasting effect on the Astros as he finished his career with 105 career wins, a 32.2 WAR, and a 3.12 career ERA, which is among the best in franchise history. And it is amazing to think that in roughly 5 1/2 seasons as a starter, Richard accumulated 76 complete games and 19 shutouts. That all came in 220 starts, which is frankly incredible.
One can’t help but wonder how Richard’s career would’ve unfolded if it wasn’t for his unfortunate stroke. It was truly tragic that his career ended the way it did. But he did provide some of the best moments in Astros history, and will always be remembered as one of the top pitchers that the franchise will ever have.
Next: 6th Best All-Time Astros Starter