Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos is being robbed of hits

No Reds hitter has had worse luck than outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Only one player in the National League ranks within the Top 10 in home runs per fly ball and line drive rates while also leading the senior circuit on balls hit to the middle of the diamond. Toss in a 48.1% hard hit mark per FanGraphs, which is good enough for 12th among all NL hitters, and you should have one of the best hitters in the game. That player is Cincinnati Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos.

So why is Castellanos only hitting .232 entering play on Thursday? His luck, as with other Reds hitters, has just been terrible. For all qualified hitters in the National League, Castellanos is among the bottom 15 in BAbip with a .250 average.

However, third baseman Eugenio Suárez and first baseman Joey Votto won’t be shedding any tears for their teammate. Geno is dead last in the NL with a .184 average and Votto is sixth from the cellar with a .229 BAbip rate. One thing not to blame in Castellano’s case is the defensive shift of the opposing team.

Interestingly, teams are employing the shift more on Castellanos this year than ever before per Baseball Savant.  I’m not sure what scouting report teams are receiving, but they might as well burn them.

Teams have been shifting their defense nearly 70% of the time, and when they do, Nick Castellanos has compiled a wOBA (weighted on-base average) of .412 as opposed to a .235 average against a traditional defensive alignment.

Perhaps Castellanos is chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone? Castellanos has traditionally chased more pitches than the MLB average, but his 2020 rate of 34.7% is his lowest mark since his 2017 season

Castellanos is also seeing more pitches per plate appearance than at any time in his career with 4.2 average pitchers per at-bat. So it can’t be that. It’s got to be something else, right? Maybe he’s trying to pull the ball too much?

As I mentioned earlier, Castellanos is using the middle of the diamond more than any player in the league and his 26% pull rate is the lowest of his career. In addition, he’s going to the opposite field more than any season since his 2015 campaign.

As a matter of fact, no Cincinnati Reds hitter goes the other way more the Nick Castellanos. The right-handed slugger currently ranks 18th in the NL by hitting the ball opposite way 27.9% of the time.

What pitchers have done is feed Castellanos a healthy portion of off-speed pitches. Castellanos is seeing sliders 25.2% of the time and curveballs at a 12.7% clip which places him just outside the Top 10 in the league in both categories. Here is where the opposition is finding success. The 28-year-old Florida native is hitting just .206 in 68 at-bats against the slow stuff.

On the other end of the spectrum, only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy sees fewer fastballs than Castellanos, and for good reason. The Reds right fielder has blasted nine home runs and is slugging .625 when pitchers try to sneak a fastball by the slugger. Despite only seeing the heater 43.6% of the time, Castellanos has made the most of those opportunities.

A 60-game regular season schedule was destined to produce some statistical anomalies and that’s certainly been the case with Nick Castellanos. He’s currently tied for the team lead in both homers and RBIs while only trailing Jesse Winker in slugging and OPS+. Reds Country please don’t dwell on the batting average because Castellanos is as good or better than he’s ever been.