The way Luis Castillo dominates may look mighty familiar to Seattle Mariners fans

This is without doubt one of the best articles I’ve ever set out to write. RHP Luis Castillo, who’s a Seattle Mariners beginning pitcher and can tackle the New York Yankees right now, is without doubt one of the finest pitchers in all of MLB. You can measure that by any variety of metrics, as a 2.86 ERA and a 3.20 FIP are shiny sufficient, however there’s extra to fawn over.

Luis Castillo by the Numbers

Pitcher ERA- FIP DRA- Ok-BB% fWAR since 2019 RA9-WAR since 2019
Pitcher ERA- FIP DRA- Ok-BB% fWAR since 2019 RA9-WAR since 2019
Luis Castillo 67 (thirteenth) 78 (twenty second) 82 (sixteenth) 17.8% (thirty fourth) 12.4 (tenth) 12.7 (thirteenth)

Min. 80 IP in 2022

When your numbers are in keeping with these of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani, and Clayton Kershaw, relying on which of the metrics above you fancy, you are among the many class of the league. Castillo’s usually been a tier or half a tier under names like these; nonetheless, his time in one of many league’s nice offensive band containers on a principally uncompetitive Cincinnati Reds membership has stored him from ascending totally. All-Star appearances in 2019 and 2022 have been interrupted by a down 2021 and a 2020 the place he nonetheless continued dealing within the shortened season. Despite lacking the primary month of the season, he is returned and shortly reclaimed his workhorse standing, working 7.0 innings in every of his final 4 outings and never failing to eclipse a minimum of 5 frames since his first outing of the season. Oh, and when the chips are down, he pulls out issues like this:

Earlier in his profession, Castillo was one of many league’s preeminent groundskeepers. Among the best groundball pitchers round, Castillo leaned on a trademark laborious changeup, a strong slider, and a pair of fastballs he used fairly evenly, though at all times leaning extra to his four-seam. The changeup was of the caliber that it has earned its personal spotlight reels.

Sitting 87-90 mph, Castillo’s agency changeup nonetheless maintains a standard 8-10 mph hole off his heaters, however as such a heated biting changeup, may conjure up reminiscences of one other agency changeup savant.

Seattle has had slow-mo masters since King Félix left the constructing, however Marco Gonzales may be very a lot a special kind of changeup thrower. Castillo, like Félix Hernández may, can lean on the changeup in any scenario.

This yr, nonetheless, the pitch is his main providing to lefties, whereas a extra complementary providing in opposition to righties. For the primary time since 2018 it is now not his main (or a minimum of plurality) pitch. It’s been outmoded by his refined four-seamer, which Jake Mailhot wrote up brilliantly for FanGraphs simply earlier than the commerce deadline. To summarize just a few key factors of Jake’s evaluation, not solely does Castillo proceed to common 97 mph on his heater, however he has considerably adjusted the utilization and presentation of the pitch. Specifically, from Castillo’s functionally sidearm launch level, Castillo is pumping excessive heaters that seem to rise or hover with runs to hitters. The idea of Vertical Approach Angle (VAA) is extremely in vogue amongst golf equipment as a result of groups have realized a four-seam launched low to the bottom that heads to the highest of the zone creates an much more important “rising” impact. From Jake’s article:

FanGraphs / Jake Mailhot

Because Castillo delivers his four-seam from a low level in contrast to most pitchers, in addition to prolonged out to his proper, the pitch hardly has the quintessential pure backspin often-prized by golf equipment. However, with its constant location, the UFO-ball with almost horizontal rotation floats and runs, making it do its finest flying saucer shimmy away from bats. The idea tracks for anybody who has tried to hit a rising wiffle ball, a course of that’s antithetical to all expectations hitters prepare for his or her complete lives. This is a reasonably comparable fastball to just a few pitchers Seattle has already developed, most notably Paul Sewald, Andrés Muñoz, Matt Festa, and Matt Brash. Here’s a group of their four-seam spin and areas; with out data of the rate or launch factors you’d have motive sufficient to assume you are getting an identical look:

Baseball Savant

All of those pitches have been extraordinarily efficient (with the doable exception of Muñoz), whilst every pitcher is rightfully identified for his or her off-speed pitches, as they’re in a position to subvert expectations from hitters and get swings that skim beneath the bat. Of the 262 pitchers with a minimum of 200 four-seamers thrown, all of that group save Muñoz rank within the seventy fifth percentile or higher in Called Strikes plus Whiffs price (CSW%), per Alex Chamberlain’s spectacular leaderboard, together with Castillo ninth general and Festa 1st (!!). Moreover, we will see that the VAAs of every pitcher are among the many lowest (learn: flattest) in all of MLB.

Blue verify marks are over, it is all about blue containers now
Alex Chamberlain

This signifies that like Sewald and co., Castillo delivers his four-seamer constantly at or above the higher third of the zone, launched from a low sufficient angle to increase the damning optical phantasm of a rising pitch to hitters and generate swings and misses in bunches Except as a substitute of like Sewald and Festa, he throws 96-100 as a substitute of 91-94, and as a substitute of throwing it the place he goals it every now and then like Muñoz and Brash, he’s extra constantly finding, and doing so with not simply the heater however together with his changeup and slider to boot. Oh, and in contrast to any of those relievers, he does this for 6-7 innings per outing.

If the changes to his supply have a value, evidently Castillo may be struggling a slight loss in angularity on his sinker and changeup by extension. Both pitches inversely to four-seamers, much more efficient the decrease they’re within the zone, and the extra steep of an angle they’re delivered at. This has been widespread data for a century – a taller pitcher is at all times prized due to the steep aircraft they will generate on their pitches to shrink the zone over the plate at which a hitter’s barrel and the ball are touring in alignment.

Of course, this particular idea was a part of the crux of the fly ball revolution and the proliferation of swings designed to scoop sinkerballers like Castillo and the erstwhile King Félix over the fence. So pitchers have had to adapt or die, and as was famous by Aidan Resnick of Pitcher List, Castillo’s willingness to adapt regardless of his monitor document of success is emblematic of an excellent pitcher. I’ve barely touched on the 29-year-old’s slider, which is a stellar providing in his personal proper that generates whiffs over 1 / 4 of the time and is his finest weapon in opposition to righties, nor his atypically flat sinker that’s his most hittable pitch, but is barely ever barreled and nonetheless helps him get floor balls nearly at will, maybe managing to work across the constraints of his new supply and launch level. This is an ace with three above-average pitches, together with a pair resembling Mariners greats of yore and current, dominating and shouldering heavy workloads with excellence and aptitude.

We’re gonna just like the way it appears to be like.

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