Titanic Struggle Recap

Luis Castillo impressive in debut, Reds lose

The Luis Castillo Era started in an unexpected way, with the pitcher grounding out to the shortstop. Once on the mound, Luis Castillo struck out the first batter he faced, throwing fastballs of 98, 99 and 100 mph before using his slider to get a swinging strike.

Photo: Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds 5  Washington Nationals 6 || Box || PlayLog || Statcast

Five innings, five strikeouts, five walks and five hits. Luis Castillo gave up a couple solo home runs and was helped by three inning-ending double plays. Castillo’s impressive fastball ran around 98 mph all night, ranging from 96 to 100. Yet he had significant trouble getting his changeup over for strikes, so he induced few swings on those pitches. He attempted just a handful of sliders, although used the pitch for two of his five strikeouts.

In the third inning Castillo loaded the bases with walks, but induced Ryan Zimmerman to hit into a 4-6-3 double play on a 99-mph fastball (nicely turned barehand by Jose Peraza).

Lots of drama in the bottom of the 5th. The Nationals got the first two batters on and Castillo’s pitch count was sneaking up. Michael Lorenzen was getting ready fast in the bullpen. On the seventh pitch of his at bat, Bryce Harper popped up a Castillo fastball for the first out. Then Castillo (finally) got a changeup over for a strike and got Zimmerman to roll over on it for an inning-ending double play.

A game where Castillo consistently gets his changeup in the pitch tunnel long enough to look like a strike will be a rout, even against big league hitters. Tonight, he left the game with a 5-2 lead.

Remember our Castillo motto for the evening: Luis Castillo is a kid making his first start above the Double-A level on the road against one of the best teams in baseball.

The Reds jumped on Stephen Strasburg in the first inning. After Billy Hamilton struck out, Scooter Gennett lined a home run to right field. Joey Votto and Adam Duvall singled. Eugenio Suarez walked. Scott Schebler, Devin Mesoraco and Jose Peraza each drove in a run to give the Reds a 4-0 lead. They added another run in the 3rd when Mesoraco singled to drive in Schebler who had doubled.

The Reds didn’t score after that.

Michael Lorenzen, who pitched the 6th inning, and Wandy Peralta, who started the 7th, did not do well. They gave up three runs. Blake Wood also pitched poorly in the 8th. Drew Storen got a big out. Tony Cingrani came on in the 8th to record three outs with two runners on. He also got Bryce Harper out in the top of the 9th. Fabulous appearance for Cingrani. Austin Brice got two outs in the 9th.

You’ll hear the narrative that the bullpen is tired from overuse. I don’t buy it, yet. The only one with more than 34 IP is Lorenzen. Throwing 32-34 IP at this point of the season isn’t that much. Lorenzen, at 39 innings, strikes me as a guy in good enough shape to have pitched five more innings. Counter-narrative: perhaps the bullpen is regressing a bit recently because they aren’t really as good as they’ve pitched the first two months. Or maybe just a bump in the road.

Bryan Price used Raisel Iglesias in the 10th inning. Iglesias struck out the first two batters he faced, then gave up two cheap hits bringing Bryce Harper to the plate. Price decided to have Iglesias pitch to the best hitter in baseball with a base empty. Harper swatted a 2-2 pitch over Schebler’s head to win the game.

38 thoughts on “Luis Castillo impressive in debut, Reds lose

    • I always find the Harper debate interesting. He’s still very young (24), and has the best non-Bonds offensive season since Mickey Mantle already under his belt.

      If he can ever find some consistency with his approach at the plate (I think he goes back and forth between patient and agressive) he’ll be the best.

  1. That 5th. inning was something else for Castillo. Two on – Harper pops up. Then Zimmerman hits into a double play. Castillo looks like a part of the rebuild.

  2. Blake Wood at age 31, should not be used for high leverage situations. He hasn’t been that great all year. Not sure when the Reds are going to “get that” in their head.

  3. Reds need to move Billy H from the lead off spot…he is becoming pretty much a dead out, unless he gets lucky and walks. Really missing Cozart in the second spot, that would help bail out Billy H, being unproductive in the leadoff position.

  4. Hamilton still leading-off? Until when? Time to shake the OF and put Winker in LF and lead-off, move Duvall to RF and Schebler to CF.

    • Hamilton should be dropped in the order or I send a message and use Winkler too. Price is slow to make changes.

  5. Loved watching Castillo pitch tonight, especially his strikeout of turner to start the game off. The velocity and pure stuff are there, as he made turner look silly. REALLY excited to see what this kid can continue to do.

  6. Idk if I would go as far as to call the outing “impressive”

    He obviously has electric stuff, but he struggled all night to throw strikes and pitched out of trouble in a couple different innings. 5 walks in 5 innings is hardly impressive. If one of those double play balls gets through, it’s a very different stat line

    Regardless of semantics, still excited to see this guy pitch

    • I felt the same way. Really excited about the kid. Feel like he has plenty of work left to do. I agree with Cossack below that a number of his pitches are likely strikes in AA. But frankly, I thought he had stretches where he wasn’t that close to the zone. I don’t think he was getting squeezed at all; umpires did a good job.

      The fastball/change up combination is really impressive. Third pitch, a slider, was as advertised. Not there yet and to have sustained success as a starter, he probably needs that third pitch to be at least fringe average.

      I’m encouraged even if I think he has lots of work left to do.

    • agree, felt stressed the whole time following the game. Garrett and even Stephenson or Cody Reed probably had a more impressive debut. 5 walks is way too much, pitch count way too high especially with 3 DP. Lucky the HR’s were solo

  7. I’m not inside Castillo’s head, but I thought he threw the ball the same way he had all season in AA. The difference was the strike zone and capability of the hitters to lay off pitches that hitters in AA chase. Those are adjustment issues. Now that Castillo recognizes that major league umpires call a different strike zone than minor league umpires, he can adjust his pitch location. That adjustment will also produce more borderline pitches and pitches that start in the strike zone and disappear for swinging srtrikes. I’m anxious to see if the walks disappear on his his next start.

    • I saw the same thing watching Castillo’s debut…encouraging for the future–but he is, as would be expected, a very much unfinished product. I don’t know whether either of our TV talking heads made the point, but watching him pitch and miss the zone thisclose so many times, I felt that many of those pitches are strikes in AA but not at the big league level. The umpires’ zones are tighter at this level. And probably should be. And if the hitters don’t chase, they don’t produce the same outcome as in AA. I took lots of encouragement from most of his called balls missing close to the plate-and not upstairs. That can be worked on and improved to become MLB-ready. I continue to wonder whether Mack Jenkins is the answer as pitching coach. Again last night for the umpteenth time this season, a pitcher (Castillo) strung some walks and the PC did not use his visit if, for nothing else, to get his pitcher out of a bad and snowballing rhythm. Especially with such a young and inexperienced (at least for those who are part of the future) staff, being a mental adjuster is a big part of what major league PC brings to the table. I’m not seeing it out of Mack. And this position on staff is so critical with a young, inexperienced staff that are going to define whether or not the rebuild ultimately works.

    • Why is the strike zone different at the MLB level than it is at the AA level? That shouldn’t be the case. The strike zone shouldn’t be arbitrary. It should be a constant. Otherwise how will minor leaguers actually prepare to throw strikes if it is called differently depending on the level, as you surmise.

      Personally, I think Castillo got squeezed last night. On the game day app several of his “balls” went right over the corners/edges of the strike zone.

      • The strike zone isn’t different. The umpires in the Majors are better than those in AA and call the strike zone more effectively. Pitches that are mistakenly called strikes in AA are more often correctly called balls in the Majors.

        Obviously, MLB umpires get plenty of calls wrong, but they are better than AA umpires as you would expect.

        • That’s perfectly logical and makes sense. Just above he said they “call a different strike zone”. The strike zone should be the same at every level and should be called the same. Which was my point. I understand there is a lot of human error.

          If we can’t get good enough umpires at the lower levels, and the MLB umps still get plenty of calls wrong, shouldn’t there be more of a push for computerized strike zone. That would help development for both pitchers and hitters in understanding the strike zone. Right?

  8. Looked to me like the umpire “squeezed Castillo a few times… Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to watch this team. We’ve lost 23 of 42 leads we’ve had and the losing is getting wearisome. Now, that said, the fact that this kid got through the Natty lineup 3 times and stayed afloat was impressive. I continue to be concerned about plate discipline… Hamilton… Peraza… Good grief.

  9. Castillo was getting squeezed by the umps all night (and to be honest so was Iglesias). Without that his line looks even better. Can’t wait until we can get computer umpires so we can finally get a consistent strike zone.

  10. Very exciting stuff from Castillo, reminded me a bit of Big Sal when he came up. You can see the stuff is there, they just need time to adjust at the MLB level.

    Which, of course, begs the question why Arroyo, Wojo, et al. were given so many starts when the real future of the franchise could have been working out the kinks all along?

    • 100 mph vs 91….no comparison. Your point is valid about not annointing him Pedro Martinez just yet, but don’t we have to grasp at straws at some point? It feels like we’ve only won 5 games since April. Personally I’m not into the old Cubs/Cleveland Browns loveable losers thing. Losing sucks!

      • Castillo throws harder than Garrett, obviously. But his problem last night is the same problem that Garrett has had for most of the season: control. They’re both young, so it would be premature to get too upset, but velocity alone isn’t a magic wand. A lot of pitchers pitched for both sides last night and mostly all of them were throwing 95+. And yet, there was plenty of hitting. A poorly located 95mph fastball is very hittable at the MLB level, and soon 100mph will be, as well, as more and more pitchers throw that hard. I’m not worried about Castillo because, as Steve points out, it’s very early days for him. I am worried about Lorenzen, though, and, to a lesser extent, Peralta and Iglesias. They suddenly seem vulnerable. We’re all impressed with their raw stuff, but they may be further evidence that stuff alone isn’t enough.

  11. Billy is hitting .163 since May 24th. Prusty has to got to get him going though! Never mind WS champ Joe Maddon, who’s won in both leagues, has probably had 5-6 leadoff guys this year atleast.

  12. Michael Lorenzen’s body of work for the month of June isn’t very pretty. Here it is in game log form from fangraphs. For those who might be unfamiliar with their formatting, the top line is the summary line.

    He started the month fine but the last 10 days have been brutal. For the month, in 11 innings (8 appearances) he has walked 5 and allowed 2 HRs. Accordingly despite a .172 BABIP, his FIP for the month is 5.23 (xFIP 4.50)

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=14843&position=P&type=&gds=2017-06-03&gde=2017-06-23&season=

    I’m guessing Peralta would look about as bad or worse.

    • I still would have went with Lorenzen for a 2nd inning, especially with the way things are going with Peralta, would have liked to seen a bounce back inning. Hoping Cingranni can remain consistently good

    • Really good stuff, Jim. Lorenzen has had two terrible outings this month. He lost all control in his appearance against San Diego, walking 3 (one intentional). Last night was bad too as he left too many pitches up in the zone and got hammered.

      In his last appearance before last night, he hung a curve that got hit out for a home run and then he dominated the next six batters.

      While I don’t believe his command has been as sharp lately, the 3 walks in one inning really makes it look worse than it maybe is. Then again, he was wild in the zone last night, so it’s possible he’s struggling with mechanics right now.

      • My first reaction was that Lorenzen and Peralta both must be having command issues.

        Also thought it is interesting that they both seem to have gone off the track at about the same time. No hint why from here, just saying that seems to be the case. Perhaps the quality of the opposition?

  13. Castillo’s outing was very encouraging. He has great stuff. I feel he just got rattled a bit at times. What’s not encouraging however is Billy Hamilton. Why is he still leading off or more importantly why is he still playing? We have Winker who is a part of this teams future. We already know what Billy is capable of and he can’t hit!

  14. Winker gets optioned back to AAA to make room for Homer.

    I guess the good news is that Homer is back and Castillo might stick around for another start. That said I can think of several alternatives I might have taken other than shipping Winker back to AAA

  15. How about Turner to the Twins to make room for Bailey? Winker has nothing more to prove and very little he might learn at AAA.

    • +1000. Really need that third catcher on the roster u you got on the cheap that (1) u hardly ever use (2) doesn’t hit that well (3) enables u to use Mez as a pinch hitter for that game that goes 20 innings…..which happens once a year (OR LESS), (4) allows u to use Barnhart as a PH when he isn’t starting….why would one want to use Barnhart as a PH? (5) limits the rest of the bench like when Peraza fouled a ball off his knee and finished his AB obviously hurt b/c u don’t have another infielder to sub for him

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