Luis Castillo, or as we like to call him, La Piedra (The Stone), has been on a tear early this year. The 26-year-old righty has started five games and recorded 2 wins, a 1.47 ERA, 41 strikeouts and a 0.88 WHIP. His .129 BAA and 3.8 hits per 9 innings are the best in the bigs.
Most importantly, though, he’s been making hitters look stupid all year. The gif I linked at the top of the blog is going semi-viral right now for how much movement his 96 mph fastball has on it. Castillo made Manny Machado look like a rookie on that pitch. In celebration of his early success, I’m going to go through times in his starts where La Piedra has made Major League hitters look like they should be back in Little League. (Shoutout to Pitching Ninja)
Castillo got the ball on Opening Day and showed that he deserved the ball. He went five and two thirds innings, giving up two hits and one run. He struck out 8 batters as well, adding to his current 41 strikeouts, which is top ten in the league. He also got Josh Bell to swing so hard that his bat flew over the dugout net. I thought David Bell removed Castillo too early in that game, but he was on his third time through the Pirate lineup. Surprisingly though, he is pitching well when he faces a lineup for the third time. He’s only allowed one run and three hits in thirty batters faced, and has struck out ten of those batters.
In his only loss of the year, Castillo was filthy. His famous changeup was in full effect that day against the Brewers, holding the reigning NL Central champions to one run on one hit while throwing seven and a third innings with nine strikeouts. He should have earned a win, but the Reds offense was shutout on that day, and he unfortunately took the loss. Castillo’s changeup has a whiff rate of 60.5% according to Baseball Prospectus, which is best in the league (minimum 50 changeups thrown).
I just included this pitch because it was against the Marlins, his former team. Thank you for giving us Castillo, Marlins. You’re the best.
La Piedra’s command hasn’t been as good as it has been in previous years. His strike rate is 58.9%, lower than his average of 63.5%. On this AB, though, he painted the outside and lower edges of the strike zone. AJ Pollock is a good hitter, but there’s nothing you can do about those pitches.
His most recent start against the Padres Saturday night might not have been his best this year. That’s splitting hairs for Castillo’s starts, though, as he has only had one start where he’s allowed more than one run. He struck out nine batters and only walked one, and gave up his first home run of the season. It was also his second extra base hit allowed so far this year. He’s been on a roll so far this year, as the Reds’ Twitter account points out here.
La Piedra has been lethal this year. He is showing the progress made by cutting his teeth in the rotation the past two years, and has a real opportunity to be in Cy Young talks later this year. It couldn’t happen for a nicer guy too. Castillo is primed for an incredible year. Let’s make it happen, big guy.