Cincinnati Reds: Grading Luis Castillo’s performance on Opening Day

CINCINNATI, OHIO - MARCH 28: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning of the game on Opening Day between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on March 28, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - MARCH 28: Luis Castillo #58 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the first inning of the game on Opening Day between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on March 28, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images) /
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The Reds 2019 Opening Day game was an exciting one as Luis Castillo treated fans to an excellent season debut. Let’s put a grade on his performance.

Luis Castillo was named the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day starter by David Bell a little over a week ago, leading many fans to question why he, not Sonny Gray would take the hill for the big day in Cincinnati. However, Castillo shined during his Opening Day performance. Let’s put a grade on it.

Castillo struggled in spring training to find any consistency or rhythm, however, he put those concerns to rest quickly as he mowed through the Pirates lineup Thursday in the Queen City. On a sunny mid-60s day, the Cincinnati Reds opened the seasoned with a win.

In 5.2 innings of solid work, Castillo allowed one earned run on a two-out broken bat single by Josh Bell, who ultimately scored in a 6th inning meltdown by Jared Hughes who surrendered the lead 2-1.

Castillo’s pitch count sat at 91 so it was understandable for David Bell to give him the hook on Opening Day and bring in the veteran reliever for the final out of the inning. Facing a lineup without Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco, Castillo was dominant. He ended the day with no decision 5.2 IP 2H 3 BB 8 K

Grading his performance will be based on 4 categories: pitch velocity (as compared to his peak numbers), pitch control, pitching with runners on base (if applicable), and hard hit balls rate:

Pitch Velocity

Castillo’s fastball averaged 95.4 MPH and is within his average fastball velocity, but I’m sure we will see that velocity creep up later in the year as it heats up. His changeup was averaging 86.6 MPH and is pretty standard for Castillo and other pitchers who throw mid to upper 90s.

Finally, his slider averaged 84 MPH which was within his career average between 84-86 MPH. All of his pitches were at velocities comparable to his norms, which was great to see at the end of March.

Grade: A+

Pitch Control

Luis Castillo spotted his fastball well in strikeout counts, however, he did issue 2 walks on fastballs, mostly missing outside or up in the zone. His changeup was dominant as he was able to throw it for strikeouts. Of his 8 Ks on the day, 7 came via his changeup.

Castillo’s slider struck out one and was effective in the few times he threw it (12 of 91 pitches). Mostly working between fastball and changeup, his slider was used early in the count to pitch backwards occasionally.

In a higher pressure start, as it was Opening Day, it was great to see Castillo shake any nerves he might have had and command his pitches well, especially his changeup which was absolutely devastating. Only knocks on his start were the 3 walks he allowed.

Grade: A

Pitching with runners on base

Three walks were issued and two hits allowed in the 5.2 innings Castillo pitched. Among those five baserunners allowed, only one reached scoring position while he was on the mound. Corey Dickerson walked in the 1st inning with two outs and Josh Bell promptly struck out the following at bat.

In the 3rd inning, with one away and runners on first and second, Castillo induced a lazy flyout to Jesse Winker in left and weak popup to José Peraza at second base. Jung Ho Kang walked in the 4th inning with two outs, bringing up JB Shuck, who went down looking on a bottom of the zone changeup.

Castillo was pulled after that weak single from Josh Bell, who ultimately got into scoring position after a single from Francisco Cervelli moved him to second. Bell then scored on a double from Jung Ho Kang (Winker did not seem to be aware of a second runner on base) after Hughes entered the game. All in all, Castillo was exceptionally great and allowed no damage to be done if a runner reached base.

Grade: A+

Hard hit balls rate

In a game where exit velocity and hitting metrics have become increasingly more important in determining outcomes of batted balls, I think it is important here to use the stat in terms of pitching, as limiting said outcomes decreases home runs and extra base hits.

Castillo allowed three balls to be hit hard in 22 batters faced, two of them going for singles, the other being a line out to Schebler in center. That’s pretty darn good considering Castillo is a starting pitcher who appears to be relying on change in velocity to strike batters out and happens to pitch a hitter friendly ballpark.

If he can keep hitters off balance throughout the year, Castillo will occasionally give up that home run but should keep the ball on the ground more than he has in the past.

Grade: A

Overall performance

What was there not to like in Luis Castillo’s Opening Day start? He came out and was effective with all his pitches, only allowed one run (after his removal) and gave the Cincinnati Reds a chance to win the game.

Next. 3 takeaways from Opening Day win over the Pirates

His velocity and control were exceptional and he controlled the running game when someone did reach base. The 2019 season looks to be a special year for Luis Castillo and I believe he makes the leap to becoming the ace this franchise needs. Fortunately for Reds Country, we caught a major glimpse of that on Thursday afternoon.

Overall Grade: A