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Cincinnati Reds

Castillo is Better Than You Think

Jeffery Carr

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© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The sophomore slump is a nerve-racking thing, whether you’re the fan witnessing it or the player enduring it. Sophomore slumps are even more pronounced in this age of social media.

Luis Castillo is in the midst of such a dilemma. After allowing four runs in four innings in Atlanta, his ERA has climbed to 5.85. Some folks, though few, are suggesting a demotion may be in order. Others say that he may not pan out. The majority, like me, are confused. He has shown so many signs of brilliance, and has also had his fair share of struggles.

Take the start against the Braves, for example. He was perfect two outs into the fourth inning. Then Freddie Freeman fouls off a thousand pitches and works a 274 pitch walk. That at-bat is followed by five-straight hits. What seemed like a blink of an eye erased the perfect game, the no-hit bid, the shutout bid, and the quality start bid. Quick explosions have been a theme of Castillo’s second season in the bigs.

Some worry he will not develop, but his struggles brought up an interesting thought – what was Johnny Cueto’s second year like? Castillo is frequently lumped in with Cueto, so let’s compare. I’ll leave out ERA so this blind comparison isn’t a dead giveaway.

K/9 BB/9 HR/FB xFIP
Player A 8.71 3.44 21.20% 4.00
Player B 6.81 3.02 11.00% 4.33

 

Thoughts? I’ll come back to it…no peaking.

Johnny, in his first 17 starts of 2009 had a better ERA, a better win loss record (actually it is the mirror image of Castillo’s 5-8 record), but he also had a better defense behind him. In fact, according to fangraphs.com, the batting average on balls in play against Cueto was .254. Castillo currently endures a .291 BABIP against him.

Castillo manages to induce a good percentage of ground balls at 44%, but his left on base percentage (percent of runners left stranded) sits at 67.9%. There are, currently, 77 pitchers with a better rate than that. Part of that can be explained by the 18 homers he has allowed, thus far, but Cueto, comparatively, had left 75.9% of his runners stranded. As far as pitching statistics go, that one is heavy on what the defense does.

Though it is difficult to quantify, confidence is a big factor in Castillo’s struggles. I’m not saying he doesn’t have confidence, but that he hasn’t figured out a way to punch through the adversity. With runners on base, opposing batters are hitting .299 against Castillo with a .923 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Compare that to just a .242 average against with the bases empty.

Now allow me to reveal the blind comparison:

K/9 BB/9 HR/FB xFIP
Castillo 8.71 3.44 21.20% 4.00
Cueto 6.81 3.02 11.00% 4.33

 

Just to note, xFIP is an ERA-like statistic that, through its formula, takes into account only the things a pitcher can control. Things like fly balls allowed, walks, and strikeouts are included in this to represent the ERA a pitcher would have if all things were considered equal behind him. Welcome to the next minute where I tell you why Castillo is fine.

Look at the strikeout rate. That currently puts him in the top 40 of starting pitchers. Not a stat you would normally see on someone with a 5.85 ERA. 

This was perfectly illustrated June 9th when Castillo got saddled with the loss at home against the Cardinals. He pitched six innings, struck out 10, but gave up five runs. He also gave up two dingers, both of them back-to-back off the bats of Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna, after striking out the first two St. Louis batters on six pitches. Talk about night and day…

Digging a little deeper into his strikeouts, Fangraphs.com also has advanced pitch statistics, like the fact that he is inducing 13.7% swinging strikes, which is up from last year. 

The only thing in the advanced pitch statistics that has regressed from last year is the percentage of pitches in the zone has dropped 3.6% to 42.5%. Needless to say, just as your little league coach told you, throw strikes and you’ll be successful.

Like Cueto, Castillo is a small mechanical tweak away from reaching the level that we all know he is capable of getting to. Take it easy on the “Castillo is a bust” train, because he is much closer to greatness than his current ERA suggests.

Jeff has spent his entire life around sports. From playing baseball and golf in high school to traveling with college softball, volleyball, and men’s basketball teams as their media relations guy, sports have been at the center of his mind. Just as comfortable talking spread offenses as he is talking Sabermetrics, get ready for simplistic views of complicated sports jargon. The Queen City is his home and he is excited to write about the Reds and the Bengals.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Lose and Bunting Stinks

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (64-87) tested the fortitude of the fans who continue to pay them some form of attention as they got blasted by the Milwaukee Brewers (86-65) 0-8, Monday night.

Anthony DeSclafani (7-6, 4.92 ERA) continued his struggles as he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. The Brewers scored three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth, but, really, the one they scored in the third was all they needed.

Christian Yelich (4-for-4) became the first player in the history of baseball to hit two cycles in one year against one team.

The most the Reds threatened was in the fourth inning when Scooter led off with a single. A bunt into a fielder’s choice and another single later gave the Reds runners on first and second with one out and Disco up to bat. Yet another bunt was called, which successfully moved over the runners, but Billy Hamilton grounded out to end the threat. That’s it. The Reds were, largely, toothless from the batter’s box, on Monday.

Due to Yelich’s cycle and Scooter’s 1-for-3 performance, they both are now tied for the NL batting title at .318 with 11 games to play.

Fox Sports Ohio loved the Reds’ performance, so much, that the postgame interview on the field was courtesy of Fox Sports Wisconsin as they interviewed Yelich.

Real quick, because the thought is permeating my mind and I have to write about this. Bunting stinks. It was a “whoa buddy” thought whenever sabermetrics and Moneyball first started, but now there are numbers to back it up. Here is a run expectancy chart, as seen on FanGraphs.com:

Runners 0 Outs 1 Out 2 Outs
Empty 0.461 0.243 0.095
1 _ _ 0.831 0.489 0.214
_ 2 _ 1.068 0.644 0.305
1 2 _ 1.373 0.908 0.343
_ _ 3 1.426 0.865 0.413
1 _ 3 1.798 1.140 0.471
_ 2 3 1.920 1.352 0.570
1 2 3 2.282 1.520 0.736

Quick explanation – the numbers above represent the average runs a team can expect based on the base runner situation, given the number of outs in an inning. Notice anything? The number is higher for a runner on first with no outs versus a runner on second with one out. This means that, if a sac bunt is successful, then it actually is more detrimental to a team’s run-scoring ability. That’s math, not an opinion.

The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, with 799. The Red Sox also have the second-fewest sacrifice hits in the majors, with six. The New York Yankees are the second in runs scored at 763, but have just 10 sacrifice hits (5th least in MLB). The Cleveland Indians have scored the third most runs at 752 and have 22 sacrifice hits, which is more than double the Yankees, but still bottom half of MLB. The Reds have scored 672 runs, 127 less than the Red Sox, but lead the world in sacrifice hits with 47. Now I am no major league manager, I know this, but it just does not equate. Stop. Bunting.

The Reds and Brewers do it again tomorrow. I’ll be watching and tweeting (@jefffcarr) and also follow @lockedonReds, if you haven’t already done so. We’ll be with you, when the calendar turns to the offseason, so keep it tuned here!

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Cincinnati Reds

Catching You Up on the Reds

Jeffery Carr

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© Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (64-86) starting pitching allowed one run in three starts, but the Chicago Cubs (87-62) took two-out of-three over the weekend in the Windy City.

Luis Castillo (10-12, 4.52 ERA) showed another flash of ace stuff on Sunday in the lone Reds win. He tossed 6.2 innings of one-run baseball. He only struck out two, but he limited one of the best lineups in the NL to four hits. Castillo’s outing was indicative of the Reds’ rotation, as a whole.

Cody Reed, once again, made a start and didn’t get his first career win, though he didn’t lose either. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while fanning 10 Cubs. Manager Jim Riggleman decided to pull Reed after he threw 91 pitches, bringing in Sal Romano (7-11, 5.43) who allowed a single, solitary run, which was enough to beat the Reds.

Matt Harvey was the other tough luck start for Cincinnati, this weekend. He got a no decision after six shutout innings in which he struck out six and allowed just four hits. His quality start was smashed when David Hernandez (5-1, 2.65) allowed three runs in the seventh, earning his sixth blown save of the year. Fatigue may be playing a factor for Hernandez as he has a 6.30 ERA in his last 10 appearances. His ERA has climbed from 1.89 to 2.65 in that time span.

Baseball is a team sport, though, and the losses, while they can be pinpointed to an inning in each game, aren’t all on the relief pitching. The bats were averaging just a shade under five runs per (4.75) in their last dozen games, but were held to four runs, total, for the weekend, in Chicago. Cincinnati lived (four homers) and died (no other RBI) by the long ball, this weekend, with four solo shots hit out of Wrigley. Jose Peraza and Joey Votto continue the most unlikely home run race in the Reds lineup as they both hit their 12th on Friday, while Scott Schebler (17) and Phil Ervin (Seven) went yard on Sunday.

Scooter Gennett endured a 1-for-8 weekend and saw his average dip, slightly, to .318. He still leads the National League for the batting title, though, as Christian Yelich’s average dipped to .313. Scooter gets three more chances for revenge against his old team, coming up, so he may be able to bump that number up.

Speaking of what’s next, let’s take a look at the series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday

Anthony DeSclafani has been sputtering, down the stretch this year and will look to flip the script in game one at Miller Park. Here’s a look at Disco’s rough stretch through his last five starts, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

Rk Date Opp Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA Pit Str IBB GDP ROE
14 Aug 23 CHC L(6-4) 6.0 8 5 4 1 5 2 0 4.26 87 58 0 0 1
15 Aug 28 MIL W(7-4) 6.2 7 4 4 1 6 1 0 4.34 98 71 0 0 0
16 Sep 2 STL 3.2 5 2 2 2 4 0 1 4.37 72 42 0 0 0
17 Sep 7 SDP 4.0 8 4 4 0 3 1 0 4.56 64 42 0 1 0
18 Sep 12 LAD L(7-5) 4.2 5 6 5 3 5 1 0 4.80 89 54 1 0 0

He’s given up quite a few hits over this span and most of these starts can be broken down into an inning, or two, each time where the opposition strings together some hits to blow the score wide open. His last start, he had a perfect game going through three, only to see the Dodgers slap two runs on in the fourth and four runs in the fifth. His season stats show that, due to his xFIP being 4.08, he pretty much has been exactly what his ERA says he is and isn’t getting all that unlucky.

He’ll be opposed by Wade Miley, whose just been a revelation for Milwuakee. In 13 starts, he has a 2.23 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). In 13.1 innings against the Redlegs, Miley has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 10.

Tuesday

Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 3.21) makes his long awaited return to the rotation in another 180 degree decision by the Reds, in 2018. Just a week back I recall hearing Riggleman say something to the effect of “We like what he gives us out of the bullpen” to a question of whether Lorenzen will start a game in 2018. Now, sure enough, here he is, a probable starter. Reminiscent of the team’s handling with Winker, and Harvey, and Senzel…anyway.

This is Lorenzen’s first start since in just over three years. His last one was against the Giants on September 16, 2015. His rookie year in the majors was the only year he pitched out of the rotation, making 21 starts and compiling a 5.45 ERA. He averaged right at five innings per outing but had an alarming 1.42 strikeouts per walk (78 Ks to 55 BBs). Granted, it was his first venture into the starting rotation, and most Reds fans think he has earned another shot, but the numbers do not support the revisionist history that some have ascribed to Lorenzen being a rotation stalwart. As we’ve said many times this year, though, let’s put him out there and see what he has.

His opponent on the mound will be Chase Anderson. The man thought by most to be the Milwaukee ace (except when Jimmy Nelson is healthy) has a 9-7 record with a 3.85 ERA. He’s not pitched more than five innings in any start this month, but he also hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those starts. Back on August 20th, he held the Reds to two runs on two hits (both home runs) in six innings enroute to his fifth win of the year. He is 5-1 in his career against Cincinnati.

Wednesday

Matt Harvey (7-8, 4.67) will look to continue the success he had in his last outing, and maybe get his record back to .500, in the series finale. He’s 1-2 in five-career starts against the Brew Crew, with a 5.26 ERA. His last outing, a memorable game of 2018 for both the Reds and the Brewers, he allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings.

Opposite him will be future-Red (hopefully, maybe) Gio Gonzalez (8-11, 4.44). In two starts, as a Brewer, he is 1-0, having allowed three earned runs in 10.1 innings of work. In his last start, he got a no-decision, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing the three runs, against the Pirates.

Locked on Reds will keep you covered during the doldrums of September baseball. Check out @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter for your Reds social media fix.

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Cincinnati Reds

The 2018 Reds Will Miss the 2018 Dodgers

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (63-84) dropped the series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers (79-67) by an 8-1 score, Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.

Anthony DeSclafani (7-5, 4.80 ERA) failed to pitch at least five innings for the third-straight start. The Dodgers touched him up for six runs on five hits and three walks. Disco actually got out to a roaring start, retiring LA in order the first time through the lineup. It unraveled the second time around, however, following a Joc Pederson home run. He changed his strategy, trying to hit the corners, but failed, leading to multiple at-bats where the hitter was ahead. LA strung together hit after hit, leading to Disco getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.

Jose Peraza provided the lone fireworks for the Reds lineup with a first inning solo shot, his 11th of the year. Billy Hamilton added a double and a triple, but was stranded at third, both times, as the Reds gave the Dodgers free pizza (aka, the Reds struck out 11 times).

Scooter Gennett managed one hit in four tries, keeping his season batting average at .321.

The Reds finish 6-and-1 against the Dodgers in 2018. They have never gone an entire year undefeated against LA, so a win on Wednesday would have been historic, but all things considered, Cincinnati liked its matchups with their old NL West rivals. They hit .280, as a team, against the Dodgers, with 34 runs scored to go along with a team ERA of 3.14. The Reds racked up 63 strikeouts in the 63 innings pitched against the Dodgers.

Scooter will personally miss the LA pitching staff as he compiled 16 hits (.727 batting average) in five games played. He also had two homers and 10 RBI.

Also of note, all three former Dodgers (Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, and Brandon Dixon) homered in the season series against their old team. Schebler even had a pair of dingers.

Luis Castillo dominated the pitching performances for the Reds in this season series. He started a pair of games, pitching 12.1 innings, and compiled 17 strikeouts. He won both his starts, allowing just nine total base runners (though they got at him with three homers).

The Redlegs hit the road again with an off day, Thursday. They will play a weekend series against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. We’ll see if they can play spoiler as the Cubs lead is razor-thin over Milwaukee.

Keep your eye on @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter!

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