Much like the last four years, the first week of the 2018 season hasn’t been kind to the Reds (1-4). There seems to be quite a bit of frustration brewing for some fans out there in Redleg Nation. Understandable after all the losing in the last four years. But remember: it’s still early, and this team will likely look different than it does right now. Nick Senzel is on the way. The young pitchers are throwing well. Despite justifiable exasperation about lineups and bizarre roster decisions early in the season, there’s hope for the future, even if it hasn’t manifested itself much on the field so far in the last six days. Perhaps it’s just the blind early optimism that comes with every season, but I still believe the Reds will have their best season since 2014.
The team could use a win against the Pirates (5-1) on Friday night, however. Although Tyler Mahle got fans buzzing with his performance on Monday, that seems like ages ago after a rainout on Tuesday, an off-day on Wednesday, and a quiet loss on Thursday. Fortunately, the Reds are sending arguably their best pitcher to the mound when action starts in snowy conditions at 7:05 p.m. ET in PNC Park.
Luis Castillo’s stuff was sharp, but his command was not in his first outing of the season. The 25-year-old right-hander gave up six runs on six hits, including two home runs, in five innings in a loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday. He still missed bats (six strikeouts) and only walked one batter, though, so his performance was nothing to get too worked up over. Castillo just needs to refine his command in the strike zone tonight and not miss over the middle of the plate.
Castillo vs. Pirates
Trevor Williams, a 25-year-old and former farmhand of the Marlins just like Castillo, was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft and eventually traded to the Pirates in 2015 for another minor leaguer. He put up solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors (3.10 ERA, 17.1 K%), reaching the majors in 2016 largely because of solid control (6.5 BB%) and an above-average ground ball rate. In 2017, he spent the entire season with the Pirates, going 7-9 with a 4.07 ERA and 4.49 xFIP in 150 1/3 innings, which included 31 overall appearances and 25 starts. That was good enough to earn a spot in this year’s rotation.
Williams’ repertoire won’t turn your head the way Castillo’s does. He averaged 92.8 mph on his fastball last year and sat at just 91.1 mph in his first outing of 2018. None of his pitches has generated better than an 11% swinging-strike rate in his career, but his sinker gets a ton of ground balls (63.5% in 2017) and he limits hard contact with good fastball command. Among the 110 starting pitchers who allowed at least 100 four-seam fastballs to be put in play last year, Williams had the ninth-lowest average exit velocity against him (85.1 mph), just behind Clayton Kershaw.
Coming off a no-hit, six-inning start on April 1, Williams is riding high into tonight’s game. He struck out just one, however, and his control was uncharacteristically bad with a career-worst five walks.
Williams vs. Reds
|RF Jesse Winker (103 wRC+)||2B Josh Harrison (161 wRC+)|
|3B Eugenio Suarez (147 wRC+)||RF Gregory Polanco (198 wRC+)|
|1B Joey Votto (15 wRC+)||CF Starling Marte (130 wRC+)|
|2B Scooter Gennett (163 wRC+)||1B Josh Bell (158 wRC+)|
|LF Adam Duvall (88 wRC+)||LF Corey Dickerson (64 wRC+)|
|C Devin Mesoraco (4 wRC+)||C Francisco Cervelli (58 wRC+)|
|SS Jose Peraza (-76 wRC+)||3B Colin Moran (71 wRC+)|
|P Luis Castillo (2.99 xFIP)||SS Jordy Mercer (68 wRC+)|
|CF Billy Hamilton (-37 wRC+)||P Trevor Williams (5.89 xFIP)|
- Jesse Winker is back in the leadoff spot where he belongs tonight, while Billy Hamilton is again batting ninth.
- Devin Mesoraco is making his second start of the season in place of Tucker Barnhart.
- Scott Schebler remains out of the lineup as he deals with an elbow injury.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Reconnecting Reds Players And Fans Is Easier Said Than Done
— Mo Egger (@MoEgger1530) April 6, 2018
Thanks to Eugenio Suarez for a great conversation on @MLBNetworkRadio. He said he wants to play for Venezuela in 2021 @WBCBaseball: “That’s a dream I feel in my heart. I want to play for my country and wear the Venezuela name on my jersey.” @MLB @LasMayores @MLBNetwork @Reds
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) April 6, 2018
Stat of the Day
Let’s have some fun with early-season sample sizes, shall we?
- Jesse Winker currently has a 31.3 BB%, which ranks second among all qualified hitters behind Freddie Freeman. At his current rate of playing time, that would amount to 162 walks in a season. (He also has a 31.3 K%, but let’s just ignore that.)
- Sal Romano has a 73.7% ground-ball rate, first among all qualified pitchers. His 8.62 FIP is the third-worst.
- Castillo has the highest swinging-strike rate in baseball (21.2%).
If there’s any pitcher on the team who can inject some excitement into the team and the fanbase after last night’s meager defeat, it’s Luis Castillo. He’ll also need his offense to break out of a slump colder than the temperatures in downtown Pittsburgh tonight. The team has just three runs over the last two games and has received few offensive contributions from anyone outside of Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, and Adam Duvall this season. With three weak hitters at the bottom of the lineup, getting contributions from those four and Joey Votto is imperative.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.