For the second time in a week, the Reds and Giants will go head-to-head, this time from Oracle Park in San Francisco.
There was plenty of offense in that series last week and the Giants won the rubber match on Sunday to win the series at underdog odds.
The pitcher-friendly confines of Oracle Park in San Fran likely won’t produce as much offense as the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati did, so I will focus a little more on the pitching matchups in this one rather than what offense can out-slug the other.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the odds for this series before we touch on anything else, courtesy of MyBookie.
Reds vs. Giants MLB Series Odds
Now let’s take a look at the probable pitchers for this three-game set, courtesy of MLB.com.
Probable Pitching Matchups
- Friday: Luis Castillo (CIN) vs. Dereck Rodriguez (SF)
- Saturday: Anthony DeSclafani (CIN) vs. Jeff Samardzija (SF)
- Sunday: Tyler Mahle (CIN) vs. Madison Bumgarner (SF)
Let’s break down these three pitching matchups before touching on some other aspects of this series.
Friday: Luis Castillo (3-1, 1.97 ERA) vs. Dereck Rodriguez (3-4, 5.75 ERA)
Luis Castillo was one of the worst qualified pitchers in baseball last year in the first half of the season, but then the second half happened.
Castillo was electric after the All-Star break last year, posting a 2.44 ERA across 66.1 innings after pitching to a 5.49 ERA across 103.1 frames in the first half. He also increased his strikeouts rate by one full strikeout per nine innings, making many believe he would take off as a bonafide ace this season at the age of 26.
They were right.
Castillo enters this one tonight sporting that 1.97 ERA while his 2.87 FIP, 3.17 xFIP and 10.55 K/9 rate are all figures that scream ace. While also ramping up the punchouts, Castillo is also sitting with a huge 57.8% ground-ball rate, one reason why his HR/9 clip sits at a minuscule 0.54 mark compared to his 1.22 career mark. It’s interesting because he posting a big 58.8% ground-ball rate across 89.1 big league innings in the 2017 season before regressing to a 45.9% mark last season.
He’s allowed a home run on 10.3% of his fly-balls allowed this season, a fairly average league number, so we can probably expect the home runs to stay down considering the number of ground-balls and strikeouts he’s been inducing.
While Castillo has taken a big step forward this season, Rodriguez has taken a big step back. He came from relative obscurity to post a stout 2.81 ERA across 19 starts and 118.1 big league innings last season, even getting his name into the NL Rookie of the Year race, although he was never going to win it over Ronald Acuna Jr. or Juan Soto.
Still, it appeared the Giants had a future rotation stud on their hands, however that hasn’t been the case this season. Rodriguez enters this one with an ugly 5.75 ERA while his 6.10 FIP and 4.82 xFIP don’t exactly paint a prettier picture than that ERA suggests.
He still doesn’t strike many out with a 6.50 K/9 rate and a 6.71 mark for his big league career while he’s been brutalized for a 2.25 HR/9 clip on the season. Despite the 2.81 ERA last season, he also produced a 4.56 xFIP, so we knew home run regression was coming and it took until 2019 to do so.
One final note on Rodriguez is the fact this Reds team blasted him for four home runs and eight earned runs with four walks to boot in just five innings last Saturday. Yikes.
Advantage: Big advantage Reds
Saturday: Anthony DeSclafani (2-1, 3.65 ERA) vs. Samardzija (2-1, 3.16 ERA)
Game two is a matchup of pitchers who has suppressed runs at quality rate to this point in the season.
DeSclafani has bounced back from a tough 2018 after dealing with plenty of injuries beforehand. After finishing with a 4.93 ERA and 4.93 FIP last season, DeSclafani owns a 3.65 ERA and 4.16 fIP so far this season while his strikeout rate has popped all the way to 10.70 K/9. We probably shouldn’t expect the punchouts to last given his 7.92 K/9 clip for his career, but he’s certainly trended in the direction the Reds hoped he would in a win-now season.
He too was a part of the three-game series in Cincinnati last weekend and pitched a quality start with six innings of three-run ball to go along with eight strikeouts. Prior to that start, DeSclafani hadn’t allowed an earned run in each of his two previous starts, pitching 11.2 innings of shutout ball with 14 strikeouts at the Mets and Cardinals, the latter a very formidable offense.
However, unlike his counterpart DeSclafani, Samardzija’s peripherals don’t exactly support his work.
He also owns an elevated 4.48 FIP and 4.99 xFIP while his strikeout rate of 7.05 K/9 leaves plenty to be desired. His home run rate remains elevated at 1.46 HR/9 and he’s almost certain to regress from a .225 BABIP against in the early going.
Like his teammate Rodriguez, Samardzija was also lit up last weekend against the Reds as he allowed three homers and four earned runs in just five innings of work in the no decision.
The right-handed veteran has pitched more than 5.1 innings in just one of his seven starts on the season, so the Giants’ bullpen could be a factor in this one.
Sunday: Tyler Mahle (0-5, 3.69 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (2-4, 3.99 ERA)
Mahle has been a perfect example of how pitcher wins are a horrible way to judge performance.
I mean, this is a guy that owns a 3.69 ERA, but also a fabulous 3.31 FIP and 3.07 xFIP to go along with a real nice 9.46 K/9 clip. Yet, he’s yet to win a game and has been tagged with five losses.
A good example came in his second-to-last start when he pitched five innings and allowed just one home run, a solo homer to his counterpart Noah Syndergaard, with zero walks and seven strikeouts. The problem was Syndergaard pitched nine shutout innings in that same game for the Mets, giving Mahle an extremely tough-luck loss. He also took the loss in his most recent start in Oakland when he pitched six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts.
His teammates owe him a steak dinner or two as he has been excellent but run support has been non-existent.
Bumgarner enters this one sporting a 3.99 ERA, but also a 3.51 FIP and 3.59 xFIP while the strikeouts have returned with a 9.24 K/9 rate on the season after producing a small 7.57 mark last season.
Home runs have been a little bit of an issue this season with an elevated 1.27 HR/9 on the season (a large number by his standards) as he allowed two homers in his most recent start – albeit at Coors Field in Colorado – and he’s also struggled some at home with a 4.74 ERA across 24.2 frames at Oracle Park.
Reds vs. Giants MLB Series Pick
I certainly like the Reds from a pitching perspective. While Sonny Gray has enjoyed a nice year too, Cincy is throwing three pitchers at the Giants who are all enjoying nice seasons including Luis Castillo who gives them a big edge in Friday night’s series opener.
I mentioned at the top of this piece that I am relying much more on what I see from the pitching matchups to make my pick rather than offense. Here’s why: neither team has hit well overall this season.
The Reds enter this one with a team .292 wOBA on the season, good for 25th. The Giants are one of the few teams that are worse as their .281 mark checks in at 28th. Oracle Park – formerly AT&T Park prior to this season – is very much a friendly environment from pitchers regardless of how small Barry Bonds made it look like back in the day.
The Reds, however, do hit for significantly more power as they have out-homered the Giants 56-35 on the season while their .178 team ISO ranks 14th while the Giants check in at 25th with a mark of .145.
Also, there isn’t much difference between the two bullpens this season. Like, at all.
The Reds rank fifth with a 3.48 bullpen on the season and the Giants rank sixth with a 3.50 mark. Even the FIPs are almost dead even as the Giants rank third with a 3.54 FIP and the Reds fourth with a 3.56 mark.
Walk numbers, home run numbers and xFIP are all almost even as well. I mean, there could not be two more evenly-matched bullpens in baseball than these two groups.
I like the Reds here and to be honest, it’s not even that close. Their three pitchers in this series have all been reliable and are facing a very poor offense in a pitcher’s park. Their offense has already rocked these starters twice in the last seven days (Rodriguez and Samardzija) and their bullpen is very good.
I also think the Reds are due to go on a roll. This is a team that sits with a +23 run differential but is just 16-22 on the season. The Brewers, for example, have a +2 run differential and are 6.5 games ahead of Cincy in the NL Central. That +23 mark is good for fifth in the National League.
The Giants, on the other hands, own a -29 run differential and are 16-21 as a result. They are only 7-9 at home to boot. While the Reds at just 7-14 on the road, that positive run differential is going to have them winning more ball games as the season moves along as this club is very much built to win now while the Giants should be forward-facing.
As a result, I’m all over the Reds on this one at solid -105 odds.