David Bell makes correct decision naming Reds Opening Day starter

DENVER, CO - JULY 12: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 12: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Sonny Gray deserves to be the Reds Opening Day starter.

Before the first pitch is even thrown, there’s a bit of controversy surrounding David Bell’s decision making. The Cincinnati Reds manager named Sonny Gray the team’s Opening Day starter for the 2020 season. It’s a bit surprising after the breakout year that Luis Castillo had in 2019, but Gray was no slouch last year.

Gray was traded from the New York Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds following a terrible season in the Bronx. Gray rebounded nicely in 2019 and was, arguably, the team’s best starting pitcher. Gray struggled out of the gate, but finished strong and led the Reds in several key categories.

While Castillo led Cincinnati with 15 wins, Gray snagged 11 himself and was the victim of little to no run production on several occasions. Gray did not pick up a win until his 10th start in 2019, however, the right-hander held opponents to three runs or fewer in eight of those first nine games he pitched.

Gray (205) trailed Castillo (226) in the strikeout department as well. However, both finished in the Top 20 in the league. A cold, wet day during Gray’s first start of the 2019 season didn’t see the Nashville-native record a single punch out, but he recorded nine or more strikeouts in nine of his 31 starts last season.

Gray bested Castillo in several other categories. Gray allowed fevered earned runs, home runs and issued fewer walks than Castillo. Gray had a more impressive ERA, ERA+, FIP and WHIP than Castillo as well.

While many pundits, experts and even fans throughout baseball may look at Luis Castillo‘s 2019 season as the better performance, according to FanGraphs, he and Sonny Gray had the exact same strikeout-rate with Gray holding thee edge in walk-rate and HR/9. Bell elaborated on his decision with Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:

"“There was a lot of strategy. We believe in all of our guys so much. We could have come up with any order and felt great about it. Some of it had to do with their readiness. That was kind of the No. 1 factor. The second factor, to the best of our ability, was matching up our opposition the best we can. It’s a stretch of 17 games until the first off-day. It was doing the best we could of matching guys up.”"

Gray will be Cincinnati’s starting pitcher when the Reds play the Tigers at Great American Ball Park on July 24th to open the 2020 season. This year’s schedule is unique due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Reds play 17-consecutive games without a break to begin play, and this season’s schedule is only 60 games.

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Gray will be followed by Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani. Bell also announced that right-handers Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims would be available to fill in as a starting pitcher if needed or piggy-backing on a potential short outing from one of the frontline starters.