Oh I’m sorry, am I supposed to write some fancy introduction here? You really didn’t want to just watch this over and over and over again?
After a rough start to the first half of the 2018 season, Castillo hasn’t looked back. Spanning back to the second half of 2018, he’s been rock solid, posting some phenomenal numbers. In 128 innings of work, he’s put up a 2.52 ERA, punching out 132 batters while only walking 32 of them.
All of this coming off the heels of that previously mentioned rough start in 2018 where an ERA of 5.70 in the first half had fans worried about his future. They thought wrong and here’s why. The xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching – basically a measure of variables a picture can control, while also replacing a pitcher’s home run total with how many homers they probably should be given credit for) states that he may have been just a bit unlucky with some home runs. Can I get a welcome to GABP anyone!? In the first half of 2018, his HR/FB% was touching an ungodly and almost unsustainable 18.4%, among qualified pitchers. That ranked 2nd worst only behind Cole Hamels. I mean it’s pretty insane to think that every fifth time Castillo turns his head around on a deep fly ball, it’s hitting the bleachers. On a side note, Sal Ramano and Tyler Mahle also pop up on the top 12. On three everybody! one, two, three, welcome to GABP!!!
This year however, the ball has bounced in Castillo’s favor. His HR/FB% is now sitting at 4.5% . Furthermore, last year his HR/9 topped out at 1.49, while this year it stands pat at 0.42, meaning he’s either found a way to neutralize the home run ball from the opposing hitter’s arsenal, or he’s getting extremely lucky after being extremely unlucky just a year before. The BABIP supports that as it stands at .245 . After all, with an ERA of 1.45, you have to be having a little bit of luck go your way.
Just about every major stat is an improvement from last year, including his strikeout rates which are also up from 8.8 to 10.4. Really, the only worry so far is his walks are slightly up from 2.6 to 3.5 . Part of this could be due to his pitching style. He really wants to bury that change-up or slider while he’s ahead and force the hitter to expand the zone. Hitters can pick up on that over time, and as a result they become more patient. Of course that isn’t always the case or else we wouldn’t be beaming over his numbers this year.
Lets talk fastballs and change-ups, because Castillo has a good combo going right now. In the perfect world, Castillo is going to use his heater, which tops out at just under 100 mph, to try and get ahead of the count.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs – blue squares indicate an average of .000
From the graph above, you can see it’s rare for a hitter to ambush Castillo on a first pitch fastball. So why not blow one past them and get ahead of the count early? After he does that, and statistics say he most likely is going to do that, he’s going to use his overpowering change-up to put the hitter away.
What makes me think that? Take a look.
Yep. According to this graph, in the 53 times Castillo has thrown a changeup while ahead of the count, no hitter has been able to turn it into a base hit. Basically at this point if you want to live, you have to keep fouling that pitch away and try and make him throw something else.
They call it the equalizer for a reason folks.
Although, he’s been gifted a little bit of luck this season, there’s no reason why Castillo can’t keep this hot streak going and make this season truly special. bWAR already has him down for 2.1 wins, which is already more than any Reds pitcher had last year (Which was also Castillo at 1.4 wins). In fact, if Castillo is able to keep up this pace, which would be extremely unlikely, but hey a man can dream right? He would tie Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season for most bWAR accrued by a pitcher in a single season (not counting dead-ball era pitchers for obvious reasons). Again, that’s most certainly not going to happen, but it does show how good Castillo has been out of the gate thus far, and how little attention it’s receiving. He’s not only been the ace of the Reds, he’s been the ace of the entire MLB. among qualified pitchers, he trails only Zach Davies and Marcus Stroman in ERA. It’s worth noting however that Castillo has more innings pitched than either of those two.
Enjoy it while it lasts Reds fans, we’ve been long overdue for a, dare I say it, ace? It seems we’ve finally found him. Thanks Miami, sorry not sorry.
Who’s the Reds Third Best Pitcher?
The third best pitcher on the Reds in 2020 will not be who you are thinking.
Castillo, Gray, Bauer, DeSclafani, and Miley. A deep, veteran, proven rotation which, on paper, makes the Reds the NL Central favorites. You can argue over who the “Ace” is, but who cares. Gray and Castillo both showed incredible stuff each earning an all-star bid. Miley brings a lefty to the rotation while Bauer brings the big name on a contract year. However, the one pitcher that doesn’t have an all-star appearance on his resume is the one to keep an eye on. I think Anthony DeSclafani will be the third best pitcher behind Castillo and Gray.
In 2019, Anthony DeSclafani had a healthy season. Coming off a promising 2016 (3.28 ERA 130 ERA+), Disco missed the entire 2017 season and only pitched in 21 games during the 2018 campaign. With how fantastic Gray/Castillo pitched and the splash trade that landed Bauer, DeSclafani’s season flew under the radar. 2.6 War 3.89 ERA 117 ERA + 167 K’s in 31 starts pitching 166.2 innings. His last 8 starts he pitched to the tune of a 2.39 ERA. Just a lucky year? I don’t think so. DeSclafani has mentioned before how much working with pitching coach Derek Johnson has helped him. Now more of a veteran, coming off a healthy season and having another healthy offseason with DJ, just how good could DeSclafani be?
According to Baseball Reference Disco’s projections:
9-9 4.35 ERA 1 Sv (?) 155 innings 154 K’s
Zips projection: 1.6 (Bauer 3.8, Castillo 3.9, Gray 3.2, Miley 1.1)
First off, win loss record for a pitcher means absolutely nothing. However, I do think DeSclafani will set a career high in wins, which is 9 (9 wins 3 different times). Last season, his first with Derek Johnson, Disco set a career high in strikeouts while pitching 18 fewer innings than his career high in innings. Contrary to many pitchers, he pitched pretty well at GABP.
Home: 6-4 3.50 ERA 82.1 in 71 hits 86 K’s
Away: 3-5 4.27 ERA 84.1 in 80 hits 81 K’s
A healthy 2020 while pitching in a contract year is important. Earning $5,900,000 at 30 years old it is crucial for DeSclafani to pitch well and set himself up for another contract and payday before he gets older. If he can continue to build off last season and take a step forward the Reds could be around a 90 win team in 2020.
*Random stat: DeSclafani’s 2019 117 ERA+ is higher than Bauer’s ERA+ in 7 of his 8 seasons.*
Bounce Back and Breakout: Outfield
Looking to the outfield for a bounce back and a breakout candidate.
10 outfielders. TEN?!?!? On the 40-man roster? Well, let’s try to unpack this obscurity. The offseason started with a quick trade to acquire Travis Jankowski which has turned into the safety option after the Reds hit big on their free agent targets. Mark Payton was selected in the Rule 5 as a long shot to make the roster. Scott Schebler is still around and apparently healthy. Don’t forget he once hit 30 home runs but more recently hit .123/.253/.222. VanMeter is probably projected more as an infielder especially with the new additions. Ok, so now that we have trimmed the fat, we are left with the big question mark in Aquino, hits LHP Ervin, often injured Senzel, RHP only Winker, and the big free agents Akiyama and Castellanos. With at bats limited, who will bounce back and who will break out?
Bounce Back: Nick Senzel
Honorable Mention: Aristides Aquino
No one has ever questioned the talent. There’s a reason Senzel was drafted high and appeared at the top of prospect list. The issue has been health. Not to beat a dead horse, but he’s struggled to stay on the field. Once he arrived on the scene in May, Senzel hit .279/.347/.468 with 4 home runs 5 doubles and 2 triples. Those numbers started to slip and Turner Ward changing his batting stance didn’t help. Injuries once again were an issue. How Senzel will be used in 2020 is up for debate. Everyday centerfielder? Second if Suarez is injured? Super utility? Who cares, the most important thing is to get Senzel healthy, find a comfortable batting stance, and get him at bats. A season (well, 104 games) under his belt should help. Many rookies struggle. Hell, Mike Trout batted .220 in his first year (40 games). Senzel won’t be Trout, but if he can hit around .280, which I think he can, this team could catch fire in and take the division.
Baseball Reference Projection: .260/.324/.445 14 HR 10 SB 20 2B (These seem low to me)
Breakout: Shogo Akiyama
Honorable Mention: Phillip Ervin
The first Japanese player in Reds history comes with high expectations. Although a rookie, Akiyama will be 32 years old and has proven himself in Japan. Hitting 20 home runs or more the past three seasons while hitting over .300 and an OBP of .398, .403, .392 should cause fans to drool over what he could be. Many question if he can be a centerfielder in the MLB but the Reds think he’ll hold his own. Adjusting to the new country and a new league could lead to a slow start. Many assume he has an elite eye for the strike zone due to his OBP, but Akiyama has never walked more than he strikes out. Not many players do, we as fans have been spoiled with Votto doing just that a few seasons in his career (APPRECIATE VOTTO). Frankly, I couldn’t care less how he gets on base as long as he is on base. I think Akiyama will be a crucial part of the team’s success in 2020.
2020 Offseason Compared to Others
This offseason is definitely the best the Reds have had in the last decade.
$165 million dollar SPLASH offseason’ s are not common in Cincinnati. After years and years of subpar rosters and uninspiring managing, the Reds started to focus on the future last offseason with a few big moves. Sonny Gray was brought in help the top of the rotation while Puig in friends were brought in to jazz up the lineup. At least one worked. 2019 offseason has built a solid foundation for the years to come. If you thought that was exciting, 2020 blew it out of the water.
So, let’s run down some previous offseason’s. Here are some of the players the Reds acquired via free agency and trades:
2010: Chapman, Arredondo, Orlando Cabrera
2011: Ramon Hernandez and Edgar Renteria
2012: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ryan Madson, Dioner Navarro, Ludwick, JJ Hoover, Wilson Valdez
2013: Jumbo Diaz, Broxton, Choo, Hannahan, Cesar Izturis
2014: Tim Adleman, Skip Schumaker, Jason Bougeois, Trevor Bell, Ramon Santiago
2015: Ivan De Jesus, Ramon Cabrerra, DeSclafani, Suarez, Marlon Byrd, Jason Marquuis, Burk Badenhop
2016: Blake Wood, Brandon Allen, Tim Melville, Schebler and Peraza, Alfredo Simon, Dan Strailey
2017: Stuart Turner, Josh VanMeter, Drew Storen, Luis Castillo, Scott Feldman, Arroyo, Scooter
2018: Kevin Quackenbush, Mason Williams, Phil Gosselin, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Cliff Pennington
2019: Tanner Roark, Farmer/Puig/Kemp/Wood, Sonny Gray, Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias
Man, that 2014-2018 was bad. The good players acquired were prospects. Obviously, during a rebuild that is what you do. But the MLB “talent” that was signed, well, yikes! (A couple of good players, I am being harsh.) The front office had no plans for winning. That is just how rebuilds work. But, you can see the foundation being built. The prospects take a few years and 2018 was the first aggressive push in years. The Reds window for success is now. By going out and signing offensive players in Moose and Castellans to pair with OBP machine Akiyama the city of Cincinnati is ready for excitement. Lack of spending has been the gripe of patrons each offseason. They were finally silenced. Interestingly, previous improvements had been made via trade, mostly. The opposite happened this offseason with signing talent and holding on to future assets. What do we make of that? I’m not really sure. Does it say the Reds have something up their sleeve to pull off a spring training trade? Could be. Too many outfielders will have to play itself out. Although this offseason has been the biggest yet, it’s possible it’s not even over yet.