(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Angels’ starting rotation has experienced turbulence in 2014, with Tyler Skaggs missing time on the DL, Hector Santiago receiving a stint in the minors, and C. J. Wilson currently nursing  a sprained ankle.  While Jered Weaver has been able to provide steadiness to the club, Garrett Richards has taken the opportunity to become the ace of the Los Angles staff.

The 26-year-old right-hander has come into his own in 2014, boosting his strikeout numbers nearly fifty percent, and dramatically lowering his ERA from 4.16 in 2013 to 2.47.  Additionally, he raised the velocity of his fastball from 94.8 to 96.3 mph, earning him the fastest average for a fastball in the MLB.

Here’s a look at that prized heater as Richards struck out James Jones during Saturday’s game against the Mariners:

Richards’ 6-foot-3 frame allows him to fully get on top of the ball, giving a pure downward plane for his fastball from the mound to the glove, creating more sink and natural inside bite.  Pinpointing this location at 98 mph with subtle movement makes it near impossible for hitters to square up and generate solid contact.  Pairing his four-seamer with a two-seamer moving in the opposite direction and a sharp slider that has already racked up 12.5 Runs Above Average has allowed Richards to maintain a stellar 50.4 percent groundball rate with a miniscule 0.27 home runs per 9.

Garrett Richards has flashed excellent numbers in his first full season as a starter, and he looks to be improving as he gains more experience through the season.  He should be a staple in the Angels rotation for years to come.

Nick Pollack writes for Pitcher GIFs and can found making an excessive amount of GIFs on Twitter @PitcherGIFs.