What a difference a few months make. After being swept by the Phillies (58-46) in April, the Reds (47-58) are on the verge of taking another series from a first-place club following a victory on Saturday evening. The Reds won’t have Joey Votto Funko Pop night to motivate them this afternoon, so they’ll really have to dig deep to pull off the victory.
First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. ET.
Before this season, Zach Eflin was a relatively unknown pitcher who seemed unlikely to stick in the Phillies rotation once the rebuilding phase was complete. In the first two seasons of his career, he had a 5.85 ERA in 127.2 innings, and his peripheral numbers weren’t any better (5.79 FIP, 5.29 xFIP). While his control was decent, Eflin’s strikeouts were few and far between. Between 2016 and ’17, 192 pitchers threw at least 100 innings; only three had a lower strikeout rate than Eflin (12.0%) during that time. As the table above shows, he’s turned it all around this year at age 24 and nearly doubled his previous strikeout rate. What’s been the difference? Let’s take a look in the scouting report.
Scouting report:Ã‚Â At the top of the list is velocity. The right-hander has added well over 1 mph to his four-seam fastball since last year, averaging 94.7. He’s also changed up his pitch mix, throwing his four-seamer and slider more often and his sinker less. His slider has a solid 13.7% swinging-strike rate — a career-best — largely because he’s getting more horizontal and vertical movement on the offering this season. Eflin has also thrown his changeup a bit more in 2018, and it’s been a solid pitch for whiffs (16.8 SwStr%), but batters have crushed it (.686 SLG) when they get ahold of it.
Overall, Luis Castillo’s sophomore season has not gone as hoped. He’s still among the league “leaders” in home runs allowed and has the fourth-highest ERA among all qualified pitchers. But he’s shown some signs of turning a corner recently. Although he’s still not getting deep into games, he’s allowed just three runs over his last two starts and 10.1 innings. He’s walked only one batter during that time and allowed just one homer. In fact, that’s the only long ball he’s allowed in his last five starts combined. Castillo’s fastball command is still a work in progress, but a potentially encouraging development did occur with the pitch in his last start.
The right-hander averaged 97.02 mph (a season best) on his four-seamer and 96.69 mph (second-best of the season) on his sinker against the Cardinals on July 23. If he can get back to throwing as hard as he did last year, when he averaged nearly 98 mph on the fastball, he may be able to get away with more mistakes in the strike zone. Let’s see if that trend continues today.
1.Ã‚Â Carlos SantanaÃ‚Â (1B)
1.Ã‚Â Jose PerazaÃ‚Â (SS)
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
The Reds continue to be connected with Zack Wheeler in trade rumors, but they have a lot of competition.
From Yahoo Sports:
"Zack Wheeler seems to be one of the hottest names on the trade market right now, as he has also been connected to other contending teams like the Yankees, Mariners, and Red Sox, and also non-contenders like the Rangers and Reds."
— James Stewart (@IAmJamesStewart) July 29, 2018
Matt Harvey isn’t garnering much trade interest despite his improvements with the Reds.
Take away one poor outing, and Matt Harvey’s ERA in 13 other starts with #Reds is 3.63 ERA. Velo is up, but rival clubs still don’t sound terribly excited about him, viewing him as No. 4-No. 5 starter. Averaging fewer than 7 K/9 and 5 1/3 IP per start with CIN.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 29, 2018
Remember this over the next 48 hours: Whatever the #Reds get for Matt Harvey is more than they would have gotten for Devin Mesoraco.
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) July 29, 2018
The Indians have some interest in Billy Hamilton.
Billy Hamilton On Indians' "Radar" https://t.co/pqCuJIVRs2
— Tim Dierkes (@mlbtrreds) July 28, 2018
Stat of the Day
Since June 1, Jose Peraza is batting .333/.393/.478 with 11 doubles, three triples, three home runs, and eight steals. His hard-contact rate is 35.1% during that time, which is almost equal to the league average (35.5%) this season. For the season, Peraza’s rate sits at 30.0%, a significant improvement over his paltry 21.4% mark last season.