With one other full week of baseball on the horizon, let’s set our sights on three intriguing faceoffs. One is riddled with questions on every starter’s skill to grow to be a real ace, one other connects two former teammates who’ve every confirmed themselves as aces, and the ultimate is between two fellas who haven’t confirmed a lot of something but this yr.
Tuesday, April 20, 6:40 PM ET: Zac Gallen vs. Luis Castillo
For years, Gallen has embodied promise. He was, and in some ways nonetheless is, the bodily type of “could possibly be.” The Cardinals took him within the third spherical of the 2016 draft, and his 1.62 ERA and a couple of.17 FIP at Excessive-A in 2017 confirmed fast returns on the their funding. Gallen made all of it the best way as much as Triple-A by the tip of the yr, then was traded to Miami in December 2017 together with Sandy Alcantara and two different gamers in trade for Marcell Ozuna.
When he debuted for the Marlins in 2019, the previous Tar Heel struck out 43 hitters in 36.1 innings. He was traded once more on the deadline that yr, however this time in a one-for-one prospect swap, as Arizona gave up Jazz Chisholm, the group’s No. 1 prospect, to land Gallen’s providers. Following a prime 10 Cy Younger end in 2020, Gallen and his deadly curveball wish to lastly erase the “could possibly be” from his profile.
A spring coaching batting observe mishap led to a hairline fracture in his arm that brought about Gallen to overlook the Diamondbacks’ first three collection. When the 25-year-old finally took his flip within the rotation on April 13 towards the A’s, he seemed as if he hadn’t missed a beat, putting out eight in 4 innings.
Zac Gallen, 94mph Paint. ??? pic.twitter.com/AWqEFSuLIu
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2021
Reverse Gallen on Tuesday, the Reds will flip to Castillo. Stuff has by no means been the difficulty for Cincinnati’s one-time All-Star; the difficulty has been holding that stuff from flying over the fence. Since 2018, solely Kyle Gibson has a higher HR/FB ratio amongst pitchers who’ve accomplished no less than 400 innings. A part of that certainly has to do with Castillo pitching in Nice American Ball Park’s cozy confines, however a part of it’s also as a result of his fastball will get hit laborious. Coming into 2021, batters had slugged above .500 on Castillo’s four-seamer in annually of his profession, with a collective wOBA north of .375. Evaluate that along with his changeup, towards which hitters have by no means cracked a .360 SLG or .280 wOBA in any yr, and the issue turns into clearer.
Luis Castillo will get himself in a bit of jam…
Then unleashes changeups from hell, Ks two in a row, and savagely smiles as he walks off the sector. pic.twitter.com/qt3RCjzIwJ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 6, 2020
Will Gallen resemble an current ace slightly than one who could hypothetically arrive in a while? On the opposite facet, is Castillo’s fastball reliable sufficient to enrich the wipeout change? Or will Arizona succeed with the gameplan that’s saved him out of pitching’s higher echelon: watch for the fastball, and swing laborious in case you hit it?
Thursday, April 22, 10:10 PM ET: Yu Darvish vs. Walker Buehler
Whereas the aim of this column is to focus on enjoyable pairings that wouldn’t in any other case bounce out, there’s at all times room for a very good ol’ original marquee matchup. When the 2 starters play for the groups comprising baseball’s hottest rivalry, it turns into even tougher to disregard.
Armed with probably the most numerous pitch mixes within the league, Darvish at all times has the capability to shake issues up. One in all your seven pitches not doing what you need it to? Would possibly as properly shelve it in favor of one other mind-bending providing. His newest development is extra fastballs and sliders with fewer cutters and sinkers. This plan has labored to date in his nascent San Diego profession: He’s thrown 60 sliders as a Padre, and hitters have a put up a putrid .079 wOBA (.196 xWOBA) towards it. The one individual to get successful on Darvish’s slider to date is none aside from Madison Bumgarner.
In contrast to Darvish, who makes a speciality of deception and a deep reservoir of pitches, Buehler is all about nation laborious ball. By way of his first three begins, his four-seam share has climbed above 60%, and none of his different 4 pitches are available in above 20%. That’s nothing new: Since 2019, he’s one in every of 26 starting pitchers with a four-seam fastball usage above 50%. And amongst starters who’ve thrown no less than 1,000 fastballs throughout that span, Buehler ranks seventh in average velocity.
Darvish shoved for seven innings towards the Dodgers in his final begin, ringing up 9 strikeouts and permitting only one hit. Buehler didn’t get pleasure from the identical success when he confronted the Padres earlier in that collection, coughing up seven hits in six innings.
In Thursday night time’s NL West rumble, Darvish’s matchups towards Justin Turner bear monitoring. Turner’s not solely been the most effective hitters of this younger season, however he’s additionally run a .371 wOBA against sliders in the Statcast era, and since 2014, he’s obtained a .382 wOBA towards all breaking pitches. When the Padres are as much as bat, Tommy Pham and Manny Machado could possibly be the antidote for Buehler’s fastball: Each gamers have an identical .425 wOBA on four-seamers in the Statcast era.
Friday, April 23, 8:15 PM ET: Sonny Gray vs. Kwang-Hyun Kim
Grey and Kim have mixed for 7.1 innings in 2021, because of again illnesses held them each out till April 17, after they each obtained their first motion in shortened begins. Grey tossed 4.1 innings towards Cleveland in his season debut, whereas Kim gutted via three innings towards the Phillies.
In an NL Central that lacks a real juggernaut, Grey and Kim could possibly be essential components for his or her respective golf equipment. The departures of Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani tightened the margins of error for the Reds within the rotation. Tyler Mahle’s 39.3 Ok% has fortified them to this point, however the return of classic Grey may carry them even larger, particularly if their blistering offensive begin continues.
Grey has seen the Cardinals 5 occasions in his profession and been tripped up by the identical bugaboo each time: walks. He’s walked a number of batters in each sport towards St. Louis and likewise turned in one of many worst outings of his life the final time they squared off again on September 1, 2020, when he recorded simply two outs, handed out three free passes, and gave up six earned runs. One factor that would ease the nerves is that Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Paul DeJong are a measly 2-for-26 off Grey with 10 punchouts.
Kim launched himself to the main leagues as a more in-depth. Touchdown with the Playing cards on a two-year, $8 million deal following 12 seasons within the KBO, Kim notched a save in his lone reduction look earlier than shifting to a starter’s function. That turned out to be a smart determination. As a member of Mike Shildt’s workers, Kim held opposing hitters to a .190/.255/.314 line with a .245 wOBA. 4 of the 9 outs he obtained in his 2021 debut got here through the strikeout, all of which had been on a biting slider that seems to be in midseason kind.
The Korean lefty goes heavy on the fastball and slider, although he’ll use each a curveball and changeup about 10% of the time. He compensates for his lack of velocity — his fastball averaged 89.9 mph final yr — by throwing his slider with nice regularity. Towards the Phillies, he threw 26 sliders and 32 heaters, an strategy that he isn’t prone to deviate from towards a Reds lineup that’s been obliterating everything fast. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how lengthy of a leash Grey and Kim are given as they ramp up their workload post-injury.
Beneath the Radar Matchup — Friday, April 23, 7:10 PM ET: Yusei Kikuchi vs. Martín Pérez
Kikuchi is aware of his scenario. He’s certainly conscious of the $66 million membership choice the Mariners can train after this season, and that except he reveals the bat-missing prowess that made him the prize of NPB, the Mariners will possible decline that choice. That makes every of his begins much more vital, together with his first in Fenway Park.
Pérez is aware of his scenario too. After pitching for the 2020 Purple Sox on a one-year contract, the veteran lefty took much less cash to come back again to Boston this winter, stating that he feels “at home” there. Whether or not he anticipated the Purple Sox to be a first-place group is one other story, however now Pérez finds himself able of heightened significance. Chris Sale continues to be recovering from Tommy John surgical procedure. Although it’s nonetheless very early, Garrett Richards’ strikeout charge is down, and Nick Pivetta is handing out too many walks. Pérez is a vital a part of Boston’s rotation, and he responded with 5 innings and three earned runs or fewer in his first two begins earlier than operating into a tricky White Sox lineup on Sunday.
Friday’s tangle with the Mariners can even enable Pérez to resume his acquaintance with Kyle Seager. No hitter has confronted Pérez greater than Seager, and no pitcher has confronted Seager greater than Pérez.