Cincinnati Reds: Luis Castillo, not Sonny Gray should start Opening Day

Sep 11, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo (58) celebrates after throwing a complete game. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo (58) celebrates after throwing a complete game. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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We’re at the midway point of spring training and the Cincinnati Reds have yet to name an Opening Day starter. Obviously, the choice comes down to the two pitchers who’ve opened the past two seasons for Cincinnati; Luis Castillo (2019) and Sonny Gray (2020).

Castillo was a late-arrival to Goodyear, so La Piedra may be a bit behind Gray at this point. We made the case last week for Sonny Gray to be the Reds Opening Day starter, but let’s see if we carve out a scenario for Luis Castillo to take the ball for Cincinnati on April 1st.

Luis Castillo should be the Reds Opening Day starter.

After a pandemic-ridden year, we are all excited for baseball to return to a 162-game season. The Reds, even after losing Cy Young-winner Trevor Bauer in free agency, still have two aces in their rotation. However, only one of them has spent their entire major league career with the Reds.

Statistically, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo are quite similar over the past two seasons. Gray has a 3.07 ERA and 277 strikeouts with only 94 walks. Castillo owns  a 3.35 ERA with 315 strikeouts and 103 walks.

If we really want to dive into what matters the most, we’ll have to look at wins and losses. While Gray seems to edge out Castillo in a lot of the statistical categories, there is one where the former Yankees’ starter falls victim to La Piedra, and it’s beating the St. Louis Cardinals.

During Sonny Gray’s tenure in Cincinnati, the Reds are 1-4 against the Cardinals. With Castillo on the rubber, the Reds in that same timeframe are 4-1. With St. Louis in the Queen City for Opening Day, in order for the Reds to start out on the right foot, Castillo should take the ball in Game 1 of the 2021 season.

Since Luis Castillo came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 2017, the team is 7-4 against the St. Louis Cardinals when Castillo pitches. For his career against the Cardinals, Castillo has logged 65.2 innings, 64 strikeouts, and a 3.84 ERA. Gray’s ERA and WHIP are just a tick higher.

The Reds are in an enviable position, as whether it’s Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo, neither is a bad option. Both pitchers have nice off-speed stuff, but it’s Castillo’s changeup that has the majestic touch that keeps people coming back to the ballpark.

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While Gray has endeared himself to Reds Country, the fanbase seems to have adopted Luis Castillo as their ace moving forward. While Opening Day is special, it’s not the playoffs and they don’t need to be super strategic here. Two aces, one game; there are worse problems to have.