The Reds and Indians meet tonight in Cleveland for the fourth and final game of the home and home 2020 Ohio Cup Series.  Game time at Progressive Field is 6:10pm Eastern. A Reds win would give them a split in the set; but, alas, would not return the Cup to Cincinnati.

Starting Pitchers

The Reds Luis Castillo is scheduled to face Carlos Carrasco in a battle of right handers. Both Castillo and Carrasco experienced performance issues in their most recent outing. Castillo seemed to lack general sharpness while allowing 5 earned runs in 6+ innings, compiling an in-game ERA of 7.50. Carrasco meanwhile allowed 3 runs also in 6 innings of work but got there by allowing 3 solo home runs. Both will be looking to get back on the beam tonight.

A Key Indicator For Castillo?

What was different for Luis Castillo between his fist 2020 start in which he allowed just 1 earned run in 6 innings and his second start when he allowed 5 earned runs in 6+ innings? Taking a dive into the game stats, I found something which astonished me.

In his two starts in 2020, Luis Castillo has allowed a Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .438.  This is very bad, well over 50 points worse than the highest BABIP among MLB statistics qualified starting pitchers in 2019.  The figure is even more eye catching given Castillo finished sixth best in MLB during 2019 with BABIP of just .262.

Castillo’s BABIP in his first 2020 start was actually worse than in his second but both were above .400.  However, in his first start of 2020 Castillo was able to offset the BABIP and have an effective outing by striking out fully 1/3 of the batters he faced. In his second start, despite a still very strong strikeout rate of nearly 1/4  of the batters faced (23.1% to be exact), the high BABIP caught up with him.

Yes, it is still somewhat early days of the 2020 season such as it is; but in 32 starts during 2019, only 5 times did Castillo have an in game BABIP of .400 or greater. None of these 5 instances came in consecutive games. The first did not happen until late June.  To become the truly dominant pitcher the club expects him to be, Castillo needs to pitch as he did last year when he posted both a high strikeout rate (~29% in 2019) and a low BABIP (.262).  Reds fans hope that starts tonight.

Carlos Carrasco’s Battle

Carlos Carrasco is trying to bounce back from an entirely different kind of adversity.  Two months into the 2019 season, he was diagnosed with leukemia.  Following treatment, he returned to the Cleveland bullpen in September of 2019. Now in the midst of the pandemic sweeping across the globe, he is attempting to reclaim a spot in the Cleveland starting rotation. His career stats for 10 MLB seasons indicate he has been a reliable middle of the rotation guy as a starting pitcher. We wish him nothing but the very best in health and, after tonight, pitching performance too.

Tale Of The Tape

The numbers here reflect the most recent complete MLB season for each pitcher.

PITCHER ERA FIP WHIP HR/9 BB% K%
Luis Castillo 2019 3.40 3.70 1.14 1.04 10.1 28.9%
Carlos Carrasco 2018 3.38 2.94 1.13 0.98 5.5% 29.5%

If Castillo could knock several points off his BB%, imagine what level his overall game might rise to. Then add in that the increased pitch efficiency would help the Reds by relieving pressure on an uncertain bullpen. Remember when Johnny Cueto adopted the pitching to contact approach and became a legitimate ace? The same could happen for Castillo.

BullPens

REDS

Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims have worked on consecutive days. Sims pitch count for those days sits at 30, Garrett is at 24. Sims in particular could be very limited or unavailable tonight. Garrett perhaps could see spot duty. The new three batter minimum for relievers could come into play with both.

INDIANS

James Karinchak and Brad Hand have worked consecutive days for the Cleveland. Hand is at 27 pitches, Karinchak at 21. They are both probably in much the same situation as the Reds pitchers who have worked consecutive days.

Starting Lineups

REDS

SP: Luis Castillo

INDIANS

SP: Carlos Carrasco

1. Shogo Akiyama (LF)
2. Nicholas Castellanos (RF)
3. Joey Votto (1B)
4. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
5. Jesse Winker (DH)
6. Nick Senzel (CF)
7. Freddy Galvis (SS)
8. Kyle Farmer (2B)
9. Tucker Barnhart (C)
1. Cesar Hernandez (2B)
2. Jose Ramirez (3B)
3. Francisco Lindor (SS)
4. Carlos Santana (1B)
5. Franmil Reyes (DH)
6. Domingo Santana (RF)
7. Oscar Mercado (LF)
8. Beau Taylor (C)
9. Delino DeShields (CF)

Still no Moustakas for the Reds. If you are wondering about Farmer getting the nod over VanMeter at 2B, VanMeter was optioned back to the Prasco Park camp as part of the MLB mandatory roster pare down to 28.

News and Notes

Today was the day MLB active rosters had to be reduced to 28 players. The Reds got there by optioning RH pitcher Tejay Antone and utility IF/OF Josh VanMeter to their Prasco Park alternate site.  Here is Redleg Nation’s deeper look at these moves:

Reds option Tejay Antone and Josh VanMeter to Prasco Park

The minor leagues aren’t playing in 2020; but, this doesn’t mean there is no minor league news. Here is the latest from Doug Gray on Redleg Nation’s companion site, Reds Minor Leagues:

Reds land three prospects on MLB’s Top 100 Prospect List

And here is a bit of late breaking Reds roster news

Final Thoughts

Twelve games comprising 20% of this abbreviated 2020 season are now in the books. In a normal season, this waypoint would be at 32-33 games. That’s about the time we often think of the season being settled in and start looking for seasonal trends. So, even though the comparison might not be quite apples to apples this time around, what can we say about the Reds now?

Only the starting pitching seems to be running to the expected form for the Reds. The offense has been moribund except for Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakis with an occasional burst from Joey Votto. The bullpen seems as erratic as ever. Perhaps most alarmingly, the Reds defense is allowing a very significant level of unearned runs, right at 25% versus the National League average of just less than 10% of runs being unearned.

Yet despite all their issues, the Reds are just 2 games under .500 and on the cusp of a playoff spot. To date just 1/4 of the Reds games have been within their own division. That’s about to change in a big way starting tomorrow with the first of 18 divisional games still to come in August. Due to the divisional second place winner being awarded a playoff spot this year, even more than usual, division wins and losses will in many ways almost count double. Now if ever is the time to GO REDS!


Data Courtesy of  MLB.Com, Fangraphs and Baseball Reference