The Cincinnati Reds have a dilemma on their hands; who to start on Opening Day? Sometimes the decision is obvious, or becomes evident through the rigors of spring training. Reds fans don’t need spring training to know that Sonny Gray, not Luis Castillo, should be Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter.
The Reds, from top to bottom, owned one of the best rotations in baseball last season. While last year’s Cy Young-winner, Trevor Bauer, may be gone, Cincinnati has a strong enough starting rotation to be competitive in the NL Central.
Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo form a nasty one-two punch for the Reds.
With the one-two punch of Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, the Reds can still win a lot of games. The question is, who is the team’s ace heading into the 2021 season? Castillo took the hill to start the 2019 season, and Gray was on the bump for the start of last year’s 60-game campaign.
I compared Gray and Castillo at StatHead.com from 2017, the year Castillo broke into the majors, through the 2020 season and their stats are virally identical. I give Gray the slight nod, as his numbers are just a smidge better. Gray has logged a few more innings and a few more games while giving up fewer hits and home runs.
The main reason I would give the ball to Gray on Opening Day is due to his consistency. Gray is just more consistent throughout a season whereas Castillo appears to find his groove as the season progresses.
In 2020, Luis Castillo struggled mightily in the first two months of the season, starting 0-4 and not looking like the All-Star he was in 2019. In the last month of the season, however, La Peidra finally started to settle in. Castillo finished the final month of the season going 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA and pitched an absolute gem against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series.
Sonny Gray, in 2020, was the exact opposite. The right-hander started the season 5-1 and looked the part of a Cy Young-winner, but eventually the wheels fell off when Gray went 0-2 in Sepetember with an ERA of 8.79. Gray didn’t even get to touch the bump for the Reds in their first postseason berth of the decade.
Do I think Sonny Gray is better than Luis Castillo? Honestly, I don’t. Castillo possesses much more electric stuff and can be a dominant shutdown ace. The more innings Castillo gets under his belt, the more he will learn to compose himself and stay out of his own head.
I think Cincinnati Reds fans are desperate for a winner, and they deserve one. Opening Day has always been important in Reds Country. Opening Day not only sets the tone for the season, but in 2021 could point to the light at the end of the tunnel and a return to normalcy. It is imperative that Cincinnati gets a W on Opening Day, and Sonny Gray gives them the best shot.