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By Reds Content Plus • Issue #100 • View online
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– Matt and Steve
In today’s MORNING SPIN:
  • Castellanos Injury Fallout
  • Reds Name a Fifth Starter (bleh)
  • Jose de Leon Released
  • Reds Rally for Another Comeback Win
  • Preview: Jake Woodford, Cardinals SP
  • Preview: Luis Castillo, Reds SP
  • Stat OTD: Pitcher Walk Rate (BB%)

Castellanos Injury Fallout
News: The Reds placed OF Nick Castellanos on the 10-day IL retroactive to Tuesday, July 20
Analysis: Castellanos was hit by a pitch from Milwaukee’s Adrian Houser on Monday, July 16 and suffered a micro-fracture of his right wrist. It took a few frustrating days to diagnose it. The Reds MVP candidate was the last man off the bench in the extra-inning game against the Mets on July 19.
No word yet on how long he is expected to be out.
How important is Castellanos to the Reds?
Welp. He was hitting .329/.383/.582 with a 153 wRC+. He’d earned 3.4 WAR already per FanGraphs. As I mentioned, he’s having an MVP quality season. He’d come up huge in many key situations.
One other measure of his value: The Reds are 2-5 since his injury.
Manager David Bell said no one player will replace Castellanos. The Reds play Jesse Winker every day (even though his numbers against LHP have returned to awful). The other three OF are Shogo Akiyama (L), Tyler Naquin (L) and Aristides Aquino ®. Nick Senzel is the only other player listed as an OF on the 40-man roster page and he isn’t on that roster right now because he’s still on the 60-day IL. So the Reds have no other OF to turn to.
Beyond the numbers, the Reds need every positive influence they can find on the field. The bullpen situation is discouraging. The team has no reliable 5th starter. The front office has been AWOL. It was easy to watch the body language sag at the game on Wednesday as Jeff Hoffman gave up five early runs. Castellanos is a big, missing motivational plus.
The Reds recalled IF Alejo Lopez from AAA-Louisville to fill Castellanos’ roster spot. Lopez takes the position place spot for Castellanos. Lopez had five singles in 17 plate appearances when he was up before. No walks. No extra-base hits.
The Reds have been leveled by injuries this year, hit in the worst places as the worst times.
Reds Name a Fifth Starter (bleh)
News: The Reds recalled RHP Vlad Gutierrez and announced he would start Tuesday’s game in Chicago
Analysis: That means Hoffman is out of the rotation for now (yay) and Gutierrez is in (bleh). Meet the new fifth starter. Same as the old fifth starter.
Here are words Matt and I have written about Guteirrez within the past week:
Spotted seven early runs, he couldn’t hold the lead. Gutierrez lasted just four innings. He gave up nine hits and two walks. He only struck out one batter. Gutierrez gave up six earned runs and with the number of balls the Mets hit to the warning track, the Reds were lucky their starter didn’t give up 10. Bell was obviously reluctant to go to the bullpen.
If you read yesterday’s newsletter, you weren’t surprised by Gutierrez as Matt foreshadowed yesterday:
“Gutierrez just isn’t missing many bats, as his strikeout rate ranks in the seventh percentile and his whiff rate is in the 27th. Pitchers can succeed without a high strikeout rate (see: Wade Miley), but it’s tempting fate when paired with a high walk rate. Gutierrez’s K-BB% (6.0%) is ninth-worst among all pitchers with 50+ innings this season.
Gutierrez has gotten by with a .248 batting average on balls in play and 78.2% strand rate, but those numbers are due for regression.”
Gutierrez’s xFIP was 5.63 before last night, pointing in the direction things were headed. Now it’s 5.71.
Gutierrez had a couple starts early when he snuck by, but the underlying stats have been pointing the other direction for a while. The viable alternatives to Gutierrez (and Hoffman) would be to make a trade or promote Hunter Greene. Wrote that a couple days ago.
Jose de Leon Released
News: The Reds released RHP José de León.
Analysis: On the one hand, this surprises me. It felt like de Leon had a strikeout tool that made it worth the Reds while to keep trying. His 36% strikeout rate was the best in the organization other than Heath Hembree. And, they’re keeping a couple awfully bad pitchers on the active and 40-man rosters. It seemed like maybe there was an argument to try him in a relief role because he was better in the first inning of appearances. The Reds chose to DFA him due to a 40-man roster squeeze.
De Leon has had a super-high walk rate (12%) and hasn’t been able to fix it. Yet, there are others in the organization who have a higher BB%: Amir Garrett (13.2%), Jeff Hoffman (14.2%), Cionel Perez (19.0) and Ashton Goudeau (20.5%).
On the other hand, no other organization made a claim for de Leon when the Reds put him on waivers.
Farmers Only Dot Bomb
Farmers Only Dot Bomb
Reds Rally for Another Comeback Win
The Cardinals’ deep flaws were on full display last night as the Reds prevailed in a sloppy, back-and-forth game. The 6-5 win moves the Reds 1.5 games ahead of St. Louis and keeps them 6.5 games behind the Brewers who handled the first-place Chicago White Sox.
There were several hitting heroes in David Bell’s lineup last night.
37-year-old Joey Votto continued his torrid post-injury pace with a two-run double that put the Reds ahead 2-1 and a single that contributed to the Reds two-run rally in the 7th to tie the game 5-5. Votto had three hits and all were above 96 mph EV. Votto missed a month with a broken thumb, but since his return in early June, the former MVP has hit .286/.395/.496; 139 wRC+ and that doesn’t include his 3-for-5 last night.
Kyle Farmer went 3-for-4 with a line-drive home run in the 4th that put the Reds ahead 3-2. Note the low trajectory.
Farmer also singled leading off the 8th and came around to score the game-winning run.
The two rookies continued to make important contributions. Jonathan India had two hits and scored a run. Tyler Stephenson had two hits of his own, but it was a sacrifice fly to center that drove in Farmer with the winning run. Stephenson had scored a run earlier after a single on a ground ball double down the third base line by Eugenio Suarez.
There were terrific and awful aspects to the Reds pitching performance. Starter Tyler Mahle was victimized by a couple early solo home runs, both on fastballs to right-handed batters. But he held the line after that until the 5th, when he walked the bases loaded.
Mahle’s fastball has been hardest hit by enforcement of the sticky substance rule (or at least the timing would indicate that). Since early June, Mahle’s fastball has fallen off by about 200 rpm and his xwOBA surrendered has jumped from .264 to .308 on that pitch.
But Mahle bowed his back and struck out the dangerous Tyler O'Neill and Paul De Jong – both right-handed – on his two fastest pitches of the evening. Both were swing-and-miss strike threes on 97-mph heaters. Here were the two pitch locations:
So in one sense, Mahle’s appearance was good. He held the Cardinals lineup to two runs in five innings. But he also let his pitch count get away from him in the 5th, throwing THIRTY pitches that inning without giving up a hit. It meant he couldn’t pitch the 6th. With the Reds bullpen what it is right now (more on that in a second) and will be going forward, every inning Reds starters can cover is an inning that unreliable relievers can stay on the bench.
That brings us to the bullpen.
Both new call-ups, Edgar Garcia and RJ Alaniz, were terrible. Garcia started the 6th and gave up four straight hits while the Cardinals went from a 3-2 deficit to a 4-3 lead. Ryan Hendrix came in – still with no outs – gave up a sacrifice fly, but then recorded two huge outs. He struck out Paul Goldschmidt and got Nolan Arenado to ground out softly to shortstop. That held the score at 5-3.
Alaniz started the 7th and hit the leadoff batter, walked the next guy and started 2-0 on the third hitter. That’s when David Bell, who had seen enough of Alaniz, may have saved the game by taking the trainer out to the mound with him to pull the 30-year-old pitcher from the game due to “injury.”
Tony Santillan came in and worked around that 2-0 count, two runners on base and no outs. He got two strikeouts (including the guy with the 2-0 count) and then induced a fly ball. The Reds radio broadcast team said that Santillan not only saved the game, but gave his teammates the jolt they needed. It was after that the Reds came back and tied the game 5-5 and scored the go-ahead run the next inning.
Brad Brach pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning with two strikeouts and Heath Hembree struck out the side in the 9th, giving the Reds their fifth consecutive win over the Cardinals. Brach has been up and down this year, but pitched well in his five appearances since the All-Star break. Hembree continues his success in his role as a traditional shutdown closer. That’s six saves for him in July.
Preview: Jake Woodford, Cardinals SP
Jake Woodford is the Cardinals starting pitcher tonight.
If that name sounds familiar … if it feels like you’ve come across it more than usual for an opposing pitcher … if you have a nagging sense that you remember seeing that name on a jersey, not just hearing it … well there’s good reason.
No, you’re not thinking of Brandon Woodruff, starting pitcher for Milwaukee. Or Jake Cousins, the Brewers reliever. You don’t have this Jake confused with Jake Arrieta, who no-hit the Reds, or Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom.
Keep thinking.
If you’re a bourbon drinker, you might take a peek at the half-finished bottle of Double Oaked on your shelf and think that’s why the name is so familiar, and why you can’t remember it exactly … but it isn’t.
Keep going.
That reporter for the Washington Post was Bob Woodward, not Woodford. Woody the bartender at Cheers was a nickname, not his real name.
Those are all reasonable guesses.
But the name Jake Woodford is etched in the mind of all Reds fans because of this iconic picture …
… or maybe this one …
Jake Woodford was a Cardinals first-round draft pick in 2015. But as Woodford worked his way through their minor league system, his performance hasn’t kept up with the pre-draft hype. Woodford was held back by a low strikeout rate.
The Cardinals kept developing him as a starter. Until the COVID season of 2020, Woodford had never appeared as a reliever. But last season, the Cardinals summoned him from their Alternate Site for 12 appearances as a reliever. His stats, not so good: 6.72 FIP/4.59 xFIP. Woodford’s first 17 appearances in 2021 have been as a reliever. Again, not good: 6.56 FIP/5.67 xFIP.
However … and you kind of figured there was a however coming … the Cardinals gave Jake Woodford a start last Saturday against the Cubbies. And that’s where this gets preview a little bit interesting.
Why would the Cardinals give Jake Woodford a start?
If you asked that, it means you aren’t keeping up with the Cardinals well enough to know that Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson are all on the 60-day IL. All those guys were supposed to be frontline starters for St. Louis this year.
So, Woodford gets pressed into service in his old role as a starter out of desperation, after a couple dozen lousy appearances as a reliever and … he’s tremendous. Over 5.2 innings, Jake From St. Louis strikes out six, walks none and limits the Cubs to one earned run.
Wood throws his 92-mph fastball about 60% of the time. A slider is his second pitch to right-handers and a curve is to left-handers. That’s all he throws for the most part. Overall, his whiff rate falls in the 25th percentile.
He’s pitched a couple times this year in relief against the Reds. Four innings with nothing too noteworthy (heh) to report. Tonight, we’ll get to see if Woodford’s excellent start against the Cubs was indicative of anything more than the North Siders slumping.
Preview: Luis Castillo, Reds SP
Luis Castillo will make his fourth start of the season against the Cardinals tonight as the Reds try to win the series and put even more distance between the second and third place teams.
Castillo is coming off a 6-inning shutout performance against the Brewers last Saturday, with 8 strikeouts and three walks. The 28-year-old has put together a good 9-game run, which has produced the stats in this chart.
* indicates Castillo's games since June 5
* indicates Castillo's games since June 5
One of the biggest keys to Castillo’s turnaround has been fastball command. In his first 11 starts of the season, he threw 41.1% of his four-seamers and sinkers on the edge of the strike zone. Over his next eight outings, that number rose to 46.7%. He’s leaving fewer heaters over the heart of the plate.
  • First 11 starts: 30.8% of fastballs in the heart
  • Last 8 starts: 27.0% of fastballs in the heart
The results have been night and day. Not only does this keep his fastball from getting crushed, it also helps his changeup and slider.
The first game of Castillo’s “good streak” was against the Cardinals on June 4. His previous two starts against St. Louis hadn’t gone so well, starting all the way back on Opening Day – a game when he recorded no strikeouts.
Stat OTD: Pitcher Walk Rate (BB%)
League average is 8.9%. Here are the Reds (%):
  • Wade Miley (6.6)
  • Tyler Mahle (8.9)
  • Heath Hembree (9.0)
  • Sonny Gray (9.3)
  • Tejay Antone (9.4)
  • Luis Castillo (10.1)
  • Vlad Gutierrez (10.5)
  • Sean Doolittle (10.6)
  • Brad Brach (11.1)
  • Lucas Sims (11.9)
  • Amir Garrett (13.2)
  • Jeff Hoffman (14.2)
  • Cionel Perez (19.0)
So yeah, not good. Reds pitchers rank 14th out of 15 teams (10.5) in the NL. The only worse squad belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals (11.3)
MORNING SPIN is a daily newsletter (Monday-Saturday) written by Matt Wilkes and Steve Mancuso. We are co-owners of and writers at Reds Content Plus.
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