Can the Reds (52-65) just play first-place teams the rest of the season? The team pulled off a come-from-behind victory last night on the heels of another strong pitching performance to win the series over the Diamondbacks (64-54). Per Nick Kirby, Cincinnati is now 22-12 against teams atop their respective divisions since May 10. The Reds will try to make it 23-12 and complete the sweep today at 1:10 p.m. ET.
Zack Godley was quietly one of the strongest middle-of-the-rotation arms in baseball in 2017, posting a 3.37 ERA (3.32 xFIP) and 3.5 fWAR in his first full season as a major-league starter. With his strikeout and walk rates both heading in the wrong direction, however, he hasn’t recaptured that success this year. For Diamondbacks fans, Godley has been frustratingly inconsistent all season. He’s not missing bats at the same pace he did last season, with his swinging strike rate falling from 13.3% to 12.0%. While that’s still a solid mark, that drop combined with a walk rate that ranks seventh-worst in baseball has spelled trouble at times. Godley has also seen a dip in his groundball rate (from 55.3% to 50.5%) and an uptick in hard-hit percentage (32.2% to 36.0%), which has led to more hits finding holes as well.
All that said, the 28-year-old is coming off a pair of outstanding starts. In his last two outings against the Rangers and Phillies, he has combined to allow just two runs and seven hits in 14 1/3 innings. He’s also struck out 17 and walked only two batters. When the Reds faced him on May 29, he threw six innings of two-run baseball in an Arizona victory.
Scouting report: Godley is yet another hurler who has found success by “pitching backwards.” He throws his curveball at a usage rate of nearly 41% and gets a swing and miss nearly 20% of the time. Per FanGraphs pitch value, it is the second-best curveball among all qualified pitchers, behind only Corey Kluber. Hitters are slugging just .296 when putting the curve into play, and 103 of his strikeouts have ended on the pitch. Godley’s other offerings have not been effective this season. He throws both a sinker (31%) and a cutter (23%) along with a seldom-used changeup (5%). His average sinker velocity has dropped from 91.6 to 90.1 mph, which — along with a significant drop in groundball rate — has likely played at least some role in his inconsistent performance. Godley is also getting fewer whiffs on his cutter, with hitters improving their contact rate from 73.1% to 80.3%.
Luis Castillo is finally pitching the way everyone expected coming into the 2018 season. Over his last four starts, he’s pitched to a 1.99 ERA (3.66 xFIP) in 22 2/3 innings. The right-hander has struck out 19 and walked only four during this run, which has seen him bring his season ERA from 5.58 to 4.91. Castillo’s command has been much sharper of late, as he’s painting the corner of the plate with his fastball instead of leaving it over the middle. Castillo has also not been as reliant on his four-seamer during this run, increasing his slider and changeup usage instead. If he can continue this momentum for the rest of the year, it would give the Reds at least one pitcher they can feel really good about heading into next season.
- Joey Votto (knee) is back in the lineup today after making a pinch-hit appearance in last night’s ballgame.
- Preston Tucker is also making his return to the lineup. He was hit in the foot by a Noah Syndergaard fastball on Monday and had missed the last four games.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Joey Votto recently passed Joe Morgan to crack the Reds top 5 career bWAR. If Votto averages about 3 wins per year over his final 6 years as a Red (including the option year), he’d pass Rose. Votto has only had 1 season in his career below 3 bWAR (2014), and has averaged 5.5 pic.twitter.com/0Inelyh69x
— ɴɪᴄᴋ ᴋɪʀʙy (@Nicholaspkirby) August 12, 2018
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) August 12, 2018
Cincinnati #Reds Minor League Game Review: 8/11/18
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) August 12, 2018
Stat of the Day
For the first time since 2013, the Reds pitching staff is not on pace to join the company of the worst in the league when it comes to walking batters. Between 2014 and 2017, the team’s walk rate was among the three highest in baseball in each season. In 2016, the team’s walk rate (10.0%) was the worst in baseball. This year, the team has the 11th-highest walk rate in the game at 8.8%. While that’s still not at a desirable level, it represents a marked improvement over the last two years, when the team had a walk rate above 10% in both seasons. Amir Garrett has had the biggest improvement from last year, improving from 12.5% to 8.8%.
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.