Reds: Luis Castillo’s latest performance has fans rightfully ready to panic

Apr 25, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo (58) pitches during the first inning. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 25, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo (58) pitches during the first inning. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

While I’m not ready to hit the panic button just yet, I’m pretty darn close. What in the world is wrong with Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo? Yesterday’s performance has me, and others I’m sure, wishing the front office had actually pulled the trigger on a trade for the right-hander this offseason.

The Reds fell to the Cleveland Indians 9-2 yesterday. Now, I know that one game does not a season make, but Castillo’s 1-4 record, 6.42 ERA, and 1.63 WHIP has me very concerned. And don’t give me that line about it’s just the first inning, because yesterday, Castillo got lit up from the first inning until he was pulled in the fourth.

Luis Castillo’s struggles have Reds fans rightfully concerned.

Luis Castillo has one quality start in seven games. You read that right; one! Yesterday, Castillo only struck out two batters, which is his lowest output since the Opening Day debacle versus the St. Louis Cardinals in which he gave up 10 runs on eight hits.

Through Castillo’s seven starts, only twice has he reached the sixth inning. And that’s not because David Bell is concerned about pitch count. It’s because the right-hander is getting lit up night after night. If this was Jeff Hoffman, Reds fans would be calling for a replacement.

Castillo has not only been ineffective during the first month-plus, but he’s been inefficient. La Piedra has logged 33.2 innings pitched through his first seven starts. Last season, Castillo went 37.1 innings during the first seven starts and the season prior, the Reds’ right-hander posted a 1.45 ERA in 43.1 innings of work.

Luis Castillo’s strikeout-rate is the lowest Reds’ fans have ever seen.

When you think of Luis Castillo, you think of a pitcher who commands the strike zone and fools opposing batters into swinging at pitches outside the zone. Castillo’s devastating changeup has lost it’s mojo. According to FanGraphs, Castillo is going to that pitch more than anytime during his major league career (37.9%) and his velocity on the changeup is the lowest it’s been since 2018.

Castillo’s strikeout-rate has me very concerned. La Piedra is sitting on a career-worst 16.8% K-rate. Last season, Castillo’s strikeout-rate was a career-high 30.5%. Three out of every 10 batters Castillo faced in 2020 went down on strikes. This season, he’s getting a little better than one in every 10 batters.

If you’re concerned about Luis Castillo’s performance, then you’re not paying attention. That said, we’ve been here before. In 2020, through his first seven starts, Castillo owned an 0-5 record and 4.10 ERA while allowing four balls to leave the yard. His following five starts saw Castillo strikeout 37 batters over 32.2 innings and post a 2.20 ERA while allowing just one home run.

Luis Castillo’s next start will be on the road in Colorado, and we know how well the ball travels in the Mile High City. The Rockies rank second in batting average (.245) and seventh in OPS (.711), so don’t let their 12-21 record fool you. Castillo’s lone start in in the thin, Denver air did not go well, as he surrendered two long balls, two doubles, and triple, but the Reds starter did strike out eight batters.

Next. Reds Top 10 RBI leaders of all-time

The Cincinnati Reds are not void of capable starting pitchers. Tejay Antone and Vladimir Gutierrez may be better options at this point than Luis Castillo. It feels strange typing that, but if Castillo doesn’t get his act together, could the Reds really consider sending him down to Triple-A Louisville?